Southern Oregon Artist Betty LaDuke has been selected by the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University to receive the biennial Oregon Arts Medallion award in 2019.
LaDuke was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1933. She attended the High School of Music and Art in New York starting at age sixteen, and later studied at Denver University, the Cleveland Institute of Art. In the fifties, she received a scholarship that allowed her to study art at Mexico’s Instituto Allende from 1953 through 1956. During her time in Mexico she lived with the indigenous Otomi, whose concern with the preservation of their heritage profoundly influenced LaDuke’s work.
“My work is more for educational purposes. My biggest pleasure is when my work shows at university student unions, or nonprofit spaces—public collections as opposed to private ones” says LaDuke, during an interview with Portland Monthly magazine.
LaDuke received her secondary art teaching credential and master’s degree in printmaking in 1963 from California State University in Los Angeles.
LaDuke’s career highlights:
Betty LaDuke has published numerous books on art inspired by her travels, including the 1997 publication Women Against Hunger, A Sketchbook Journey. In 2009 SOU’s Hannon Library featured two exhibits Syria and Lebanon: Crossroads of the Middle East and Chiapas, Mexico: Land and Liberty both of which included some of LaDuke’s giclee prints, photographs, and drawings. Betty LaDuke devoted her life to art and taught at SOU for thirty-two years, eighteen of which she was the only woman in the Art Department. In 2009 she was commissioned to paint a 100-foot high sequence entitled Dreaming Cows for Heifer International, a nonprofit whose mission is to end world hunger and poverty. LaDuke’s dedication to raising the profile of women artists and social change is a theme throughout her art and writing.
She has traveled throughout Africa, Asia, South, and Central America. During her travels, she documented the experiences of women and explored the world arts. LaDuke kept sketchbooks that formed the basis for her larger works and exhibitions. During the 1950s she was commissioned to paint the outer walls of one-room schools in Mexico. LaDuke returned to Mexico in 2002 when she did an international presentation entitled An Artist’s Journey from Mexico to Africa at the University of Guanajuato and Instituto Allende, her alma mater.
LaDuke’s art has been featured in educational exhibitions in libraries and universities across the US. Including a 1998 exhibit at the Alma Conference Center in Austin Texas entitled Compañeras: Women Art and Social Change in Latin America which included her collected art and photographs. She partnered with UNIFEM for the Women’s International Art Exhibit entitled Progress of the World’s Women where her piece Grandmothers Dreaming Peace was on view in the visitor’s lobby of the United Nations in June of 2000.
In 2012 LaDuke partnered with the Medford International Airport to create a permanent installation of twenty-six panels Celebrating Local Farmers and Farmworkers. In 2015 LaDuke unveiled a project with the Portland International Airport called Bountiful Harvest: From Land to Table which shares its name with a book written by LaDuke that pairs images of the painting with the stories told by the farmers she painted. Disneyland in California commissioned her for Three Monkeys based on Zimbabwe sketches for a Lion King Parade Float in 1994.
The circulating exhibition entitled Celebrating Life: Betty LaDuke Retrospective began its journey at SOU’s Schneider Museum of Art in 2013, and since then has traveled to Valparaiso University and Paris Gibson Art Center. Currently, her art can be seen across Southern Oregon University campus in Hannon Library, The Theatre/JPR building atrium, and in Churchill Hall.