"American Citizens Series"
Original paintings by Ken Tesoriere
Her steady glance is what hooked me, neither challenging nor inviting
but certainly self-assured...and as surely her vividly dyed hair with its overall luxuriousness---
(And yes her face WAS reworked several times to find a blue combination that radiated.)
Her ENTIRE appearance - beautiful yet stern ethnic strength, gorgeous
dress and wonderfully outlandish complete hair coiffure - how could I NOT want to paint her?
Of Colombian heritage, most days she proudly wears her own dress creations to
the advertising agency that she manages.
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This father and son Native Americans sat enfolded together this way,
to one side of a street art fair in Tucson, each completely immersed in their craft-making together - one the teacher,
the other the learner.
Her birth country's violence had killed her husband. She had
always heard that the United States welcomed those willing to learn and work. She wanted to live in a peaceful
place to rebuild her life with her child. Only to immediately find themselves imprisoned inside our border behind
a barbed-wire fencing with other immigrant mothers and children---
One day I noticed a group of young women chatting together, except for one standing
aside, seemingly lost in deep introspection. Over the following days her look kept returning to my mind, a sure sign I had to
paint this portrait.
Here a Tucson artist mentally ponders the various possibilities that she
might use to create her next vibrant mixed-media art work.
I asked an Older Gentleman about his clothing, and he told me about the ancient artists
from his own heritage and their rituals. Immediately I imagined him in the pose and painted him in a robe from an 1839 Hokusai
portrait and set him in a daring confrontation with an imaginary tiger at the edge of a cliff...two warriors respectfully
challenging one another.
Along a small American border town main street, this older man occasionally stopped
walking to converse with folks he knew and as easily with certain strangers that interested him. Immediately he reminded me
of Elders I had read about in history, those who collected tales of people in their times to pass on orally or in books.
In a local park I glimpsed this young immigrant woman surprised by her husband on their anniversary
with such refreshing innocent joy.
I glimpsed a woman attired in vibrant colors of such magnificent fabrics and all uniquely
arranged, with a hat as visually original and stunning. And as quickly she appeared she was gone. I asked my wife, having her own
unique artistic nature, to pose for this visual color explosion.
In the general store on the northern Arizona Hopi Reservation, at a small corner
table an old man steadily watched me as I bought food supplies - more studying me than challenging. Returning
outside to my car, I was told that he was a Hopi Guardian, a Holy Man who protected them.
The distinct face of her Peruvian heritage and her exotic garments
and headdress lured me to her. She allowed me to photograph her but her deep wariness never eased even
though my wife was there beside me.
Most afternoons after school Fernando sat outside playing the make-shift
flute that his father had made for him while their cat, Santina, sat by him contentedly listening to the music.
Coming in the door of a music club after working all day, her obvious joyfulness simply
radiated as she went directly to the bandstand where she would sing with her good friends,
the musicians playing that night.
As a child with her parents she fled violence in Somalia. In America she studied
and worked while completing her education to be a Medical Doctor. She now works in a local hospital.
Across a street this child suddenly halted and hugged her tiny live rabbit tightly as
a uniformed Border Patrol Agent stopped her and I heard him demand to know where she had just stolen that rabbit?
An ethnic dancer originally from Nigeria, I witnessed his wonderfully unforgettable
art performance years ago during New Orleans Mardi Gras.
A Bangladesh Immigrant, now a trained nurse in America, she said
she joyfully loved her peaceful walks home daily after working a shift in a local hospital.
At a weekly Saturday Market, this young man sold flowers, always polite
yet never engaged directly except with a few other Immigrants. Was that because of the event that
scarred his face for life? Did that happen in the country he left, or here in his adopted country?
Clearly the force of her look on such a young face
riveted my interest to capture her portrait. I asked if I could photograph her, and with a Scottish or Irish lilt,
she said, Yes.
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After a special ceremonial performance, the exotic beauty of this
artist draped in delicate ethnic clothing greeted me up close exiting the stage - she was simply exquisite.
Ah yes, it certainly WAS her luxuriant long hair as well as that "Aren't I
absolutely the complete package?" look on her face that caught my attention...and that we both laughed about and
kept me amused while painting her portrait.
The girl began to dream HER dream as far back as she can remember, and now as her
life unfolds, she wonders if that dream in fact might really become true?
When immigrants think back after decades, what do they feel about their
once youthful imaginings about emigrating? Have the many sacrifices and abuses been worthwhile other
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Wandering among the lush plant and aviary life at Tucson's Botanical Gardens
one afternoon, a swarm of yellow butterflies descended close around this small girl and playfully danced all around her.
She looked around at them mesmerized... until the butterflies as suddenly dispersed.
Along the outskirts of a southern Arizona border town, a grandmother
unsuccessfully hurried her grandson by, going home I imagined, past a new imprisonment camp topped with barbed-wire
fencing. Clearly she hoped that the little boy would not notice his own mother inside with other immigrants the Border
Patrol were holding for not having their immigration papers on them.
While recovering from surgery, given my limited
physical mobility, I explored the easiest image I could find - myself as a visual hunter.
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From across a restaurant her ambiguous look
as well as her unique self-styled hair ornamentation silently called out to me, "I AM a painting!"
The strong personal values of a ranching life are as etched in those who
live in the South America pampas, as those same values are for North America ranchers. Tommy Zapeda said living here now
he carries on that solid way with his family.