Maria, the Artist
Many of those who know Maria as a writer and a poet are unaware that she was an artist as well. Maria created portraits, paintings, collages, and in characteristic fashion, celebrated and encouraged the art of others often more than promoting her own well executed and lovely works.
Maria's immediate and extended family have many fond memories of Maria, the artist. Her summer vacations almost always included going to art fairs where she'd set up her easel and join other artists who were offering portraits sketched on demand. She also enjoyed exploring the city in search of new murals and public sculpture.
An Introduction to Maria's Art
Beginnings: Chicago, Lawndale approx. 1956
As a preteen, Maria was an avid reader of the comics in addition to literature of all kinds, and virtually any written material available. At breakfast she would read all the information on available objects like the cornflakes box or the milk carton. Then she would start sketching on a napkin or whatever piece of paper she could find. Her favorite drawings were of horses.
Often in the newspapers there would appear an advertisement inviting people who felt that they had artistic abilities, specifically drawing, to enroll in art classes that were conducted by mail. Our mother, though not having much extra money, managed to save enough to purchase these art classes for Maria.
Later: Approx. 1958
A thoughtful teacher recognized Maria's talent with art and suggested that she enroll in the Art Institute's classes for young people. Maria was thrilled to take the el downtown to the Art Institute of Chicago for those lessons.
The Black Is Beautiful Movement
In the late 1960s in Chicago, there was very little "Black" art available in stores. Most middle class homes in the community, as a part of their decor, would display Japanese landscapes or Tahitian-type art. A lot of African American Art that was found in libraries reflected the times and often depicted gross caricatures that were acceptable, and therefore recognized and published.
Maria created the African American woman with headdress (called "Yoruba" Woman though at that time we were still learning about Africa and her many countries and cultures) and the "Mother and Child" as a way to fill a void. She had silkscreens made of the originals. Then, along with help from family members, after obtaining 100 or more prints of each original, Maria created a home-based assembly line where prints were put into frames and made ready for sale. A local store on Stony Island offered to display the pictures. Maria also displayed these prints at the DuSable Art Fair and other city fairs.
The Southside Community Art Center and Sauer's annual auction offered additional opportunities for Maria to share her talent with others. However, often it was difficult to part with a particular piece. A lot of her beautiful work was truly art for art's sake.