Theresa Lovering-Brown is a visual artist who teaches in the Monterey Peninsula College jewelry and metal arts program. She grew up in the Bay Area. As an art student in the nineteen-seventies, she studied the essential elements of art—texture, dimension, elements, and the principals of design—and began to work in metalwork, “which is not completely environmentally friendly,” Lovering-Brown says, laughing. Recently, she’s started to use recycled materials, such as tin cans and mesh wire, in place of new metals and wires in her work.
She also creates works with a political edge. Recent pieces explore the effects of the Iraq war, the mismanagement of the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, and the situation of migrant farm laborers.
For over a decade, commuting in the Monterey Bay region of California, Lovering-Brown daily drove by hundreds of acres of farmland, where she saw migrant farm laborers toiling in conditions that ranged from damp, bone-chilling weather to scorching mid-day heat, with no shade or shelter to escape the sun.
"In winter, the fields become a muddy quagmire," she says. "In summer, the weather can be intensely hot, sun burning and yet the workers must pick, plant, pull, load crates, and spray pesticides, the poisons needed for farm land production."
“I have seen helicopters fly over the fields and spray pesticides,” she says. “And later that day the migrant workers are out in the same field working the crops.”
She points out that the large agribusiness farms are not your traditional family farms.
“When I drive by conventional strawberry fields on a nice sunny day around noon and there is no wind blowing, I have to close my car windows,” she says. “Conventional strawberries have high amounts of toxic pesticides, including captan, benomyl, vinclozolin, iprodione, and endosulfan.”
Her research and questions led to a sequence of pieces inspired by her observations.
“Imagine what these carcinogenic materials are doing to the farm laborers picking these luscious-looking strawberries,” Lovering-Brown says. “The long term side effects of these pesticides have not been studied or proven. Who knows what effect this will have on our bodies?"
Lovering-Brown notes that art isn’t the only way of taking a stand. “Taking political action is sometimes more valid than making a piece of art,” she says. “It has to do with who you are as a person. You can’t sit back anymore. If things mean enough to us, we work them into our lives and our art.”
Lovering-Brown uses a journal to develop ideas. “As I’m writing and drawing, ideas start coming,” she says.
“Reflections and contemplation. If I get paralyzed about what I’m going to do, I just go into my studio and do what I have my students do. If you don’t have an idea, you just go to your studio and clean. You’ll start moving pieces around, picking them up and putting them down, and it’ll get your energy moving and you’ll be able to start working.”