Migrant Workers: People of the Fields at the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center

By Linda Marston-Reid
Linda Marston-Reid is an artist, writer, and executive director of Arts Mid-Hudson.

The portraits are painted with a bold brush, many of them larger than life depicting people that usually don’t get their portrait painted. Barbara Masterson’s Migrant Workers: People of the Fields, is a beautiful exhibit up now at the LGBTQ Center in Kingston. Jake Salt, Director, Programs & Services at the Center commented; “The Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center is thrilled to welcome Barbara Masterson back to the Center for her second exhibit with us. Masterson was the first artist to exhibit in our Apuzzo Hall gallery and her new exhibit “Migrant Workers: People of the Fields” shows a dramatic and moving new focus in the subject matter of her work.”

Masterson provided some background to the development of this series: “In 2015, I was plein air painting when migrant workers came into view. I gestured them into my paintings. As time went on these shapes became much more. Their forms became individuals. My work transformed. In my paintings, my subjects sometimes look directly at the viewer.”

Visitors might first notice the bold primary colors that are featured in the works: the bright green of fields at harvest time and the colorful bandanas the workers wear to protect themselves from the bright sun. The workers also have names and relationships; for instance, when looking at Whyte & Vincent, viewers will notice they stand side by side, shyly facing the viewer. They appear to be stopping momentarily from their work still grasping the machetes they have been using to clear the fields. The Cowboy walks in the field harvesting multicolored peppers, he holds two cadmium green buckets of peppers while he wades through the plants – the sky is visible behind him as the sun rises over the ridge. Another painting depicts Paul, a worker harvesting the colorful flowers we buy at the florist.

While many of the portraits show the workers facing the viewer, the painting, Wise Men, shows the workers stooped over with faces not visible. Here the workers become anonymous shapes of color within the field, reminding us all that most agricultural workers are remain anonymous. Masterson has visually signaled to everyone the importance and value of farm workers. Through her art, these portraits of farm workers become so much more – they are a story of workers that support their families through farm work and contribute to our society. The paintings show dignity and beauty in every scene.

Salt added, “We’re proud to host such a visually compelling exhibit which, we believe, will help highlight the humanity in all marginalized groups, including migrant workers, LGBTQ people, and those who are a part of both communities.”

A public reception for the artist is scheduled for Saturday, April 21, 3:00-5:00 p.m., light refreshments will be served. Migrant Workers: People of the Fields is on display through May 11, 2018. Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center, 300 Wall Street, Kingston, NY.

Migrant Workers is a part of the Center’s Project “Art Out Loud – Promoting LGBTQ Artists in the Mid-Hudson Valley,” which aims to promote under represented LGBTQ artists and those who explore the complex challenges and issues surrounding identity and the wider community, funded in part by Arts Mid-Hudson through the NYSCA DEC Program.

“These workers are our country’s invisible population, unseen despite planting, weeding, harvesting, and packing produce from April to November. Many are undocumented workers. These are the people that do the jobs that most Americans won’t do, yet who might face deportation under the new Washington administration.

Hard at work, they summon our attention and invite us to come closer, to see their labor and their humanity. Who are they? Can you see them? What is life like for them? What role do we play in keeping them unseen?”

My work can expand our perceptions of these workers.

Join artist Barbara Masterson, friends, and LGBTQ Center staff and supporters for the opening reception of Migrant Workers: People of the Fields (on display from March 26th through May 11th). Light refreshments will be served.

From the artist:

In 2015, I was plein air painting when migrant workers came into view. I gestured them into my paintings. As time went on these shapes became much more. Their forms became individuals. My work transformed. In my paintings, my subjects sometimes look directly at the viewer. They are hard at work. They claim our attention.
These workers are our country’s invisible population, unseen despite planting, weeding, harvesting, and packing produce from April to November. Many are undocumented workers. These are the people that do the jobs that most Americans won’t do, yet who might face deportation under the new Washington administration.

Hard at work, they summon our attention and invite us to come closer, to see their labor and their humanity. Who are they? Can you see them? What is life like for them? What role do we play in keeping them unseen?

My work can expand our perceptions of these workers.

“The Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center is thrilled to welcome Barbara Masterson back to the Center for her second exhibit with us. Masterson was the first artist to exhibit in the our Apuzzo Hall gallery and her new exhibit “Migrant Workers: People of the Field” shows a dramatic and moving new focus in the subject matter of her work. In Migrant Workers—a brightly colored, captivating collection of images—Masterson invites the viewer to bear witness and expand their perceptions of migrant workers, a diverse group of people who are fundamental to the functioning of our lives and economies. Despite their essential work, migrant workers are made invisible through political and cultural forces and frequently the targets of xenophobic policies, a parallel experience to that of LGBTQ people generally.

We’re proud to host such a visually compelling exhibit which, we believe, will help highlight the humanity in all marginalized groups, including migrant workers, LGBTQ people, and those who are a part of both communities.

Migrant Workers is a part of the Center’s Project “Art Out Loud – Promoting LGBTQ Artists in the Mid-Hudson Valley” which aims to promote under represented LGBTQ artists and those who explore the complex challenges and issues surrounding identity and the wider community, with generous funding from Arts Mid-Hudson.”

This project is made possible with funds from the Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by Arts Mid-Hudson.

 

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