Local artist uses color, feeling to portray lives of by lpe53845

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									Benton REA




Art
From the
Fields
Local artist uses color,
feeling to portray lives of
migrant farm workers                          Two of Consuelo’s works. The painting at right is called “Hop Cutter.” Fields of hops are portrayed in the
                                              painting at left, called “Valley Hops.”

By Audra Hoefer
                                                 Her mind is full of images of a happy                 farmworkers harvesting cherries, apples,
The summer before first grade, Consuelo       childhood moving from field to field,                    hops, asparagus, strawberries, plums,
Soto Murphy clutched an asparagus knife       working with her family and others who                   grapes, cucumbers and peaches, with a
in her small hand as she walked beside        became an extended family. She now                       palette of bright colors that elicit feelings
her family along dirt rows and cut vege-      portrays the love for her family and child-              of happiness.
tables. She laid them carefully in the rows   hood with acrylic on canvas paintings.                       “I have so many people thank me for
so her father could walk behind her and          “My goal is to do what Diego Rivera                   the subjects I paint,” says Consuelo. “A
scoop them up. Today, she travels down        did and put us in a positive light, which                lady in Richland stood and stared and
canvas roads with paintbrush in hand,         isn’t usually portrayed this way,” says                  stared at a painting of mine. She turned
creating vibrant paintings from that little   Consuelo. “There’s so much history, and I                and tears were running down her cheeks.
girl’s memories.                              put so much love into it because it makes                She said, ‘My family ... ’ and I said, ‘I
   Despite experiencing the physical          me think of my family. Painting brings                   know ... ’ and we cried together. It makes
demands of harvest, Consuelo has posi-        me peace and makes me feel like I have                   me happy to make others happy.”
tive memories from her experience as          something that’s all mine, something that                    Her signature pieces include Yakima
one of nine children in a migrant farm-       I can control.”                                          Valley agricultural landscapes and farm-
working family. When she was 2, her              Most of her paintings depict                          workers without faces. Instead, the sub-
mother was diagnosed with a brain                                                                                   jects wear sombreros tilted so
tumor, which rendered her unable to                                                                                 their faces don’t show.
work and made it necessary for the kids                                                                                “I don’t put faces on them
to pitch in and help earn a living.                                                                                 because then people can put
   The eldest five children worked                                                                                  their own faces on them,” says
full time in the fields alongside their                                                                             Consuelo. “Plus, when you’re
father, following a harvest circuit from                                                                            working in the fields, you’re
Washington to California, Michigan,                                                                                 not sure who’s under the hat
Texas and back again. The youngest four,                                                                            because everyone has their
including Consuelo, were able to attend                                                                             heads down. If you didn’t
school and work in the mornings, after-                                                                             have a hat on, you weren’t
noons and summers.                                                                                                  serious about working.”
   “I remember on that last day of school,                                                                             Consuelo also receives
we came home and Dad already had the car                                                                            motivation from her Catholic
                                              Consuelo Soto Murphy shows her painting in progress called “Field
packed and we’d leave to work in the straw-   Potatoes.” Her work is inspired by the lives and experiences of       faith. One of her favorite
berries in Mount Vernon,” says Consuelo.      migrant farmworkers.                                                  paintings, “Mary Did You

4   O C TO B E R 2 0 0 9
Know?” depicts the Virgin Mary cra-
dling baby Jesus with the words of the
Christmas song underneath.
   “I’m really proud of that because I
make deals with God,” says Consuelo. “I
thank him for the talent he’s given me
and for letting me use it to the good. I
tell him, ‘When I finish this, I’ll paint one
so people can think of you when they
look at it.’ You have to give back and so
many people have forgotten him.”
   The pursuit of her dream took flight
six years ago while taking an art class as
a continuing education course for her
teaching certificate. Prior to that, she
and her husband had painted Christmas           Consuelo, who lives in Richland, works on her latest piece. She likes to use vibrant colors.
scenes on windows for 15 years. The only
problem, she says, was the art only lasted      fun.” They include “Celebrate You” and                    up my Web site and is my PR guy.”
about a month and was “too beautiful” to        “Day of the Dead” inspired paintings.                        The couple’s 10-year-old son, Chad, is
be washed off.                                      Consuelo sells her paintings and prints               a budding artist whose work earned the
   “I wanted my work to last longer than        exclusively at 6th Street Art Gallery in                  “People’s Choice Award” at the Benton-
that,” says Consuelo, “and I dreamed that it    Prosser, and online at www.sotoart.com.                   Franklin County Fair last year. He recently
would show up some day in history books.”           “I think she’s absolutely fabulous and                finished an abstract painting and sold
   So, she began painting every day with        vibrant,” says Carol Ashby, owner of 6th                  three paintings last Christmas.
the goal of finishing 12 paintings for a        Street Art Gallery. “Her personality really                  “My dad never cared for art, but I
calendar.                                       comes out in her work. It’s an honor to                   think we got it from him,” says Consuelo.
   “It’s way past that now,” says the artist,   show and sell her work. Her integrity                        Four of his nine children are artists.
who has completed more than 100 paint-          comes out; the fact that she’s willing to                    “When we leave paint around the
ings, the largest 10 feet by 6 feet for the     share her work and information with                       house, he gets excited and paints things,”
Pasco Library.                                  other artists says a lot.”                                she says. “But he thought it was a waste
   Though Consuelo started small, her               Consuelo works with her husband,                      of time and that we wouldn’t make any
goals have become loftier and her can-          Shawn, a professional photographer and                    money earlier on. Now, when something
vases larger. Her favorite size for working     potter. The duo teaches art and photog-                   of ours is published, he hangs it on the
is a 3-foot by 4-foot canvas. She also sells    raphy at Richland High School. Both                       refrigerator and he brags about us.”
prints in a variety of sizes.                   are dedicated to helping their students                      Consuelo is working on 15 commis-
   Painting brings with it a sense of           become professional artists and offer them                sions, which she says are more difficult
accomplishment. Consuelo is particularly        advice on how to do so. They work hand                    than the free flow of her ideas.
proud of creating the first-ever com-           in hand and influence one another’s art.                     “I do appreciate that others enjoy my
memorative Walter Clore label for the               “Her agricultural works shed such a                   work, however, and most artists dream of
new viticulture center in Prosser.              positive light on such a tough and physi-                 getting commissions,” she says.
   “I actually cried after that one was         cally demanding job,” says Shawn. “You                       “It’s very therapeutic for me. I can’t
done and I looked at it,” says Consuelo.        see the beauty of the fields in her work.                 wait to get home and just sit and paint.
“I just thought, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ I       It was truly one of the best periods of her               I didn’t want my life to pass by and have
really enjoyed doing it.”                       life working with her family. She’s able to               any regrets. Now I don’t have any.” n
   Another favorite is “Red Hat Ladies,” a      show a different side of it that we don’t
huge piece that sat in her living room as       always think about and is truly an amaz-                  Consuelo and Shawn will be part of the “Open
she put finishing touches on it.                ing artist and a master at composition.”                  Studio Tour” to be the Saturday and Sunday
   “It really made me happy and always              “Shawn is absolutely phenomenal,” says                before Thanksgiving at artists’ studios in
                                                                                                          Richland. They join 13 area artists display-
put a smile on my face,” says Consuelo.         Consuelo. “We are one, truly. He helps me                 ing their work and giving demonstrations. For
   Besides religious and agricultural           with all of my art, draws out ideas for me,               more information, call (509) 727-1916 or (509)
paintings, the artist does some “just for       drives me around to take pictures, keeps                  727-7770.


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