Art exhibit in Pilsen rescues memory of labor pioneer Lucy Gonzalez Parsons
An art exhibit in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood rescues the memory of one of the city’s most unrecognized social figures: Lucy Gonzalez Parsons.
Parsons, it is said, was born in Texas in 1853 of Mexican, Native American and African American ancestry. She came to Chicago in 1873 accompanying her husband, Albert Parsons, a former Confederate soldier and a political activist.
Soon both entered the political circles organizing then for the eight-hour day and for other social reforms.
As is well-documented, Parsons and seven other mostly immigrant activists were arrested after the Haymarket Affair in 1886 and after a dubious jury trial were sentenced to hang.
Of the eight, only four were hanged: Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fischer.
Gonzalez for the next 56 years up to her death in a suspicious fire in 1942, continued to carry on the fight for labor rights.
She also dedicated the latter part of her life to preserving the memory and speeches of Parsons and the other Haymarket activists.
“Hard Days & Times of Change” is the exhibit that pays homage to Parsons and is located at the Calmecac Gallery at Casa Aztlan, 1831 S. Racine Ave, in Chicago. The exhibit opened on May 4 and continues until May 25, 2012.
Portrait of Lucy Gonzalez Parsons as an orator and great speaker by artist Edgar Lopez.
Efren Beltran, the exhibit’s curator, said 15 Latino artists participate in this exhibit which includes paintings, collages, sculptures and mixed media representations of Lucy Gonzalez Parsons.
“She was a true activist,” said Beltran. “Another reason behind the exhibit is to send a message to today’s women that the fight continues and they should continue to fight for justice and equality.”
It is without a doubt one of the most interesting exhibits on a historical figure ever put on display in Pilsen.
It has an abstract rendition of Parsons by artist Edgar Solórzano and an interpretation of her as an orator by artist Edgar Lopez.
Another highlight of this interesting exhibit is a 36” X 24” graphite rendition of Gonzalez by famed Chicago painter and muralist John Pitman Weber titled “I Am Still a Rebel.”
I Am Still a Rebel by John Pitman Weber
The painting includes a quote in Spanish attributed to Gonzalez Parsons which seems most appropriate in this time of the Occupy Movement in the country.
The quote says “No se dejen engañar-los ricos jamás permitirán que les quiten su riqueza por medio del voto.”
Weber, considered by many one of the fathers of the Chicago Mural Movement, said he is glad he’s part of the exhibit
“She was a great Chicago figure,” said Weber. “I was delighted that I was given the opportunity to participate in this exhibit.”
Although Gonzalez Parsons insisted up to her death that she was of Mexican ancestry, there are no records available to confirm or disprove her claim.
“I think that it’s wonderful that the Mexican American community is adopting her and taking her to their hearts,” said Weber.
Parsons always claimed she was born in Texas, the state where she married Parsons before moving north to Chicago. They moved to escape the bigotry against mixed marriages.
The late printmaker Carlos Cortez, a local artist, was the first to memorialize Gonzalez in a famed print of which a replica is also part of this powerful exhibit
Beltran and Calmecac Gallery seriously should consider making this a travelling exhibit so that so that more people learn about this great historical figure who was also a founding member of the International Workers of the World, whose members were known in the 1920s and 1930s as “Wobblies”.
The only other memory in Chicago of her is a park in the city’s North Side which bears her name.
Exhibit hours are Monday to Friday from 12 noon to 5 p.m. said Carlos Arango, executive director at Casa Aztlan.
“The exhibit rescues the historical presence of this great activist and great woman,” said Arango.
Posted in Arts, Opinion