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Inspiring Women Portrait Project: Sixth Progress Report

The Remaining Six Women

Top from Left:
Ilhan Omar     Rachel Carson     Dorothy Day
Bottom from Left:   Margaret Sanger   Shirley Chisholm   Maya Angelou

Ilhan Omar  (1981)   
Ilhan Omar is the first naturalized citizen from Africa and first Somali American Muslim woman to become a state legislator, and then be elected US Representative for Minnesota’s 5th district. 

Rachel Carson  (1907-1964)   
Rachel Carson was a marine biologist and ardent defender of the enviornment. Her most famous book, Silent Spring, catalogued evidence and research that described the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment. According to environmental engineer and Carson scholar H. Patricia Hynes, “Silent Spring altered the balance of power in the world. No one since would be able to sell pollution as the necessary underside of progress so easily or uncritically.”

Dorothy Day (1887-1980)
One of the most famous Catholic Converts, Dorothy Day began life as a bohemian and continued to think radically and independently her entire life. She established the Catholic Worker Movement with Peter Maurin, practicing pacifist nonviolent civil disobedience and providing direct aid to the poor and homeless. Dorothy Day was imprisioned several times, the last time at age 75,  for her social activism on behalf of suffrage and the poor.

Margaret Sanger   (1879-1966)
Margaret Sanger’s life-long activism came from her belief that in order to have a more equal footing in society and to lead healthier lives, women needed to be able to determine when to bear children. Her efforts focused on legalization of contraception in the United States. 
In 1916 she was arrested for distributing information about contraception at the family planning and birth control clinic she opened in Brooklyn. Margaret had two children and was married twice. Her husbands supported her work. Her estranged first husband, William Sanger, was tried and convicted for giving a copy of Sanger’s book, Family Limitation, to a representative of anti-vice politician Anthony Comstock. Her second husband, Noah See, smuggled diaphrams  from Canada into New Your in boxes labeled as 3-in-One Oil. He later became the first legal manufacturer of diaphragms in the United States.

Shirley Chisholm   (1924-2005)
In 1968 Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress. In 1972 she ran for the Democratic Presidential nomination. She did not win, but continued to serve in the US Congress until 1982. She was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Her parents were immigrants from British Guiana and Barbados, and, at age 5 she was sent to live with her maternal grandmother in Barbados. Chisholm credited the strict British-style schools of Barbados for the excellence of her early education. She returned to the US and later graduated from Brooklyn College, where she won prizes for her debating skills, and Columbia University.
She held important positions in Congress, using an assignment to the House Agricultural Committee to play a critical role in the creation and expansion of programs to provide food and nutrition to those in need. After her retirement from Congress she resumed her career in education at Mt. Holyoke College, teaching courses that covered politics as it involved women and race.


Inspiring Women Portrait Project: Fifth Progress Report

I have finalized my choices for the Ten Inspiring Women.  Below are photographs of the first four of them.  
From Left Top:  Sarah Winnemucca, Pauli Murray 
From Left Bottom:  Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Alla Renée Bozarth
I will illustrate the remaining six of the Ten Inspiring Women on the Sixth Progress Report. To view that report, click here.



            I began studying these four women as possible portrait subjects months apart, beginning with Pauli Murray, inspired by the April 2017 New Yorker article Saint Pauli. Only recently did I realize they are connected across almost a century.

Sara Winnemucca Hopkins (c.1844-1891)
Sara Winnemucca, North American Piute author, activist, and educator, wrote what is considered the first known autobiography by a Native American woman, Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims.  The autobiography eloquently describes her relationship with her family and the southeastern Oregon region, and the travails of the Piute and Nez Percé encounters with the white man. While reading it, I learned that she was greatly admired for her bravery, stamina, and intelligence by General Oliver Otis Howard during his assignment in Oregon’s Harney County area.                                      

General Oliver Otis Howard (1830-1909) connects Sara Winnemucca and Pauli Murray. 
Howard advocated for black suffrage and founded Howard University, the all black college in Washington, DC. Pauli Murray studied law at Howard University and was first in her class. She was refused admittance to the University of North Carolina because of her race and to Harvard because of her gender.

Pauli Murray (1910-1985)                                                                                           

Pauli Murray Murray was co-founder of the National Organization of Women and a life-long champion of civil rights. She published two autobiographies, Proud Shoes and Song in a Weary Throat. She acquired her masters at UC Berkeley, and eventually worked as an associate attorney at a prestigious firm, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.  She produced a wide range of important intellectual work, including an encyclopedic compilation, States’ Laws on Race and Color, which Thurgood Marshall called “the Bible” of the civil rights movement. Her life juxtaposed highs and lows. She struggled with poverty, and racial, gender, and sexuality barriers. Pauli was ordained Episcopal Priest in 1997, the first black woman to be ordained. As Episcopal Priest, she performed the Eucharist at St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where, as a child, her grandmother had been required to sit in the black-only segregated balcony.

Pauli Murray is connected to Ruth Bader Ginsberg and to Alla Renée Bozarth.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg (1933)

Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been an Associate Justice of the the United States Supreme Court from 1993 to the present. Ginsburg wrote the brief for Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971), in which the Supreme Court extended the protections of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to women. She named Pauli Murray co-author of the brief, in recognition of Murray’s pioneering work on gender discrimination. Legal scholars and advocates credit Ginsburg’s body of work with making significant legal advances for women under the Equal Protection Clause. Ginsburg has received attention in American popular culture for her fiery liberal dissents and refusal to step down; she has been dubbed the “Notorious R.B.G”.

Alla Renée Bozarth (1947)                                                                                        

By custom, women were denied ordination to the Episcopal priesthood, notwithstanding that the church had considered legislation to allow women ordination as early as 1971. On July  29,1974, Alla Bozarth became one of the women, known as the Philadelphia Eleven, who were ordained as Priests without permission at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, an historically black church, prominent in the Civil Rights Movement. Because of these pioneering women, Pauli Murray could be ordained Episcopal Priest in 1977, the first black woman to be ordained. The Reverend Bozarth is an author and poet.  Her work reaches across denominational barriers and every faith tradition. She has published two books on grief, Life is Goodbye, Life is Hello, and Journey Through Grief. The author of twenty eight titles of prose books and poetry, her poems are widely used all over the world. Selected poems have been published in Life Prayers From Around the World, edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon, co-founders of The Institiute for Deep Ecology.   She created her spiritual ministry, Wisdom House, first in Minnesota, then in Oregon.                                                                                                                                              

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Click to view the Sixth Progress Report with the Remaining Ten Inspiring Women.

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Inspiring Women Portrait Project: Fourth Progress Report, December 2018: Preparing the birch panels.

On  my teacher Ulan Moore’s advice, I began by preparing birch panels for all ten triptychs before beginning the portrait process.

The preparation began with cutting a large sheet of birch plywood into the central and side panels.

Next I gessoed all the panels, front and back, to prevent warping.

production line      production-line4-e1544661397289.jpg





Next, paint the arches and columns. The middle area of the central panel is left unpainted for the portrait. The middle area of the side panels is prepared with a background for the calligraphy.

Finished columns

As of December 5th, all 10 triptych panels are painted and ready for portraits and calligraphy. Whew!

all Panels

To visit the Fifth Progress Report, click here.






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Inspiring Women Portrait Project: Third Progress Report December 2018


The project will include ten portraits, each in triptych format. As in the painting of Pauli Murray, the portraits will be in a tromp l’oeil frame. Two smaller panels will be on each side of the central portrait, creating a triptych. The side panels will be calligraphed with pithy and/or revealing morsels by or about each woman.

I have not completed the calligraphy for the side panels of Pauli Murray’s portrait, but this mock-up of the triptych for Pauli with the side panel texts is the pattern I will follow for all of the portrait triptychs:

PauliPanel44-revPauli 4.18 copy Pauli-Panel2rev

The texts on Pauli’s side panels summarize two major contributions her thinking and law papers have made to legislation on human rights.  The panel from 1944 is a quote from her last year law paper at Howard University. At the time, Thurgood Marshall and other civil rights lawyers were unsuccessful in finding ways to overturn Plessey vs. Ferguson, the law that justified school segregation based on “separate but equal.” Her argument about arbitrary limits of personal rights in the public sphere made clear that the limitation of equal rights was due to singling out a category of persons, ie by race, instead of limitation due to unlawful behavior. The 1964 Civil Rights Act again built on Pauli’s argument and women were included in the protection of equal rights in the public sphere.

On the wall of my studio I have posted gallery of possible women to portray.

production line2











Click here to go to the Fourth Progress Report


Inspiring Women Portrait Project: First Report

Pauli 4.18 copy

Pauli Murray

My current project is oil Portraits of Ten Inspiring Women.  The idea started with an April 2017 New Yorker article by Kathryn Schulz about Pauli Murray, Saint Pauli: She advanced two movements for equality—and was at home in neither.  Pauli Murray straddled the identities of white/black, and male/female. Her work at Howard Law School was brilliant but she was refused admittance to the graduate program of Harvard Law. Her Howard senior seminar paper became a resource for Thurgood Marshall and his team’s successful overturning of Plessey versus Ferguson, thus ending the separate but equal justification for school segregration.  Later her continued law research and writing was credited by Ruth Bader Ginsberg as part of the basis for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Her portrait is a trial and a template. Ulan Moore, a classically trained painter taught me the classical portrait technique I will use for this project.

They will be triptychs because the central panel of the woman’s portrait will be accompanied by two side panels with calligraphed quotes by or about her. 

They will resemble icons because I believe these inspiring women’s portraits tell holy stories, their lives devoted to peace, justice, and nourishing and lifting the spirit.

I am painting the portraits in a classical style:  the painting techniques favored by the painters of the Renaissance, and used even by Degas and his contemporaries. These techniques include :  

  • composition based on dimensions such as the golden ratio,
  • preparatory drawing,
  • underpainting in grisaille,
  • oil paint,
  • and gold leaf.

The process may be a lengthy one. I will document it in following reports on this blog. Click here for the The Second Progress Report that illustrates the stages of Pauli’s portrait.


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Solo Exhibit at the Jerusalem Fund Gallery of the Palestine Center, Washington D.C.

October 2012 The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Pomegranate Tree of Life

Washington, D.C.

The Jerusalem Fund Gallery hosts its first exhibit by Oregon artist Anne Barber-Shams, Mihrab:  Metaphorical Portal, opening on September 14, 2012 and running through October 26.

Barber-Shams explores the depths of the mihrab, which she translates as meaning refuge, and its significance in the three monotheistic traditions of Andalusian Spain.

Eleven acrylic paintings on paper, embellished with gold leaf, study the evocative shapes of doorway, gate, arch and niche—literal architectural and metaphorical portals from one place to another. The artist sees themihrab as a portal uniting the ancient common ground found during the Andalusian period, where for 700 years the three monotheistic cultures of Muslims, Christians and Jews intermingled and flourished, bringing forth architectural, artistic, scientific and scholarly riches. Barber-Shams pairs these paintings with nine odes by Muslim, Christian and Jewish poets of the period, calligraphed in metal leaf on marbelized Mylar (strong polyester film). She sees the odes as seeds of peace created during a turbulent time, the Dark Ages of Northern Europe contemporaneous with the liberal cultural understanding of the Golden Age in the south.

Anne Barber-Shams studied painting and glass in Venice and Padua, Italy, as well as earning degrees in art in California and Oregon. She first became involved with the situation in Palestine in 2001, and has since participated in numerous solo and group shows, concentrating on the subjects of building bridges to peace through art.

For more information please visit www. the —Dagmar Painter