The Pomo Portraits of Grace Hudson (1865–1937): A Legacy of Humanity on the Mendocino Frontier

By Jean McIntosh.

Published by The International Journal of Community Diversity

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: December 7, 2015 $US5.00

This paper critiques the portrait paintings of Grace Carpenter Hudson (1865–1937) who lived and painted on the Mendocino frontier. During her lifetime, she completed more than 650 portraits of local Indigenous people commonly known as Pomo. As described in the “New York Journal” in 1896, Grace Hudson was “one of the greatest American Indian painters,” yet her portraits cannot be fully understood without assessing their contribution to the colonial legacy that presupposed that Indigenous people were a vanishing race. The portraits are analyzed in relation to some theoretical perspectives about the representation of race and its relationship to establishing a colonial order. Particular attention is given to how visual representations of the Indian functioned to theatricize, ostracize, and ultimately colonize new world Indigenous peoples and culture. The findings are analyzed in terms of how Hudson’s portraits capture a troubling and persistent race phenomenon in California during the nineteenth century. Finally, the work of twentieth century Pomo artist Mable McKay (1907–1993) and the insights of scholar Sherrie Smith-Ferri are considered. Their insights in relation to Indigenous identity today, and Hudson’s reputation amongst Pomo a century later, provide perspective.

Keywords: Art, Pomo, Racial Representations of Other, Indians, Indian Art, California Frontier Culture

The International Journal of Community Diversity, Volume 16, Issue 1, March 2016, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: December 7, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 490.488KB)).

Prof. Jean McIntosh

Professor, Department of Digital Media, West Valley College, Saratoga, California, USA