> 2005 - 2010



Painted bronze, wood, broken dishes, 2009, 7” x 20” x 15
In 1936, Dorothea Lange photographed Migrant Mother. It became the iconic image of the Great Depression and for me it has always been the image of despair. The picture was an immediate sensation, prompting the US Government to immediately send food to the 2,500 migrants at the pea-pickers camp at which it was taken.

I have never felt that kind of despair. But I have a friend who is mired in it. She has a roof over her head but depression has wrapped its suffocating arms around her. She was a child bride of the fifties. She overcame an abusive childhood to create an "Father Knows Best" life. Everything she believed in, her fifty year marriage, the love of her children, her faith has shattered under the weight of chronic illness and an impossible quest for perfection. I encouraged her to garden. She knitted for a time. But with the winter rains she retreated.

I have often wondered what became of the migrant mother and her children. Through the internet, I learned that Florence Owens Thompson's family had moved on by the time the food arrived in the camp. In a 2008 CNN interview, her daughter Katherine McIntosh recounted that the photograph made her family both ashamed and determined never to be as poor again. "She was the backbone of our family" said McIntosh. "We never had a lot, but she always made sure we had something.” At one point Thompson worked in a ‘penny-a-dish kitchen’ for fifty cents a day and leftovers so that she could feed her children. The need to feed her children drove her beyond the despair captured in Lange's photograph.

But what of my friend? She no longer needs to be the backbone of her family. What will propel her past the broken rubble of her former life?

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