Picture Los Angeles in 1924. A young woman, dressed in buckskins and feathers wraps herself in a Pendleton blanket and steps into a canoe. Her friend pushes the canoe from shore and it skims slowly towards deeper water. The clear green-toned water catches the canoe and it slows, then stops. At the center of a small pond in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, the young woman adjusts her blanket and awaits instructions from the photographer.
The sleepy Spanish pueblo had been nudged awake with the rush of California gold in 1849 and the successful cultivation of the navel orange. The new motion picture movement found the room to grow in this exotic west coast city of sun, palms and sea. Los Angeles was on the verge of blossoming into a sophisticated hub of modern vision.
My grandmother, Catalina Ortiz was born into this world. Raised in the rarefied "Spanish" world of Los Angeles, she attended the private girls boarding school at the Ramona Convent School in Alhambra, California. The last of 18 children, her focus became music and she devoted herself to the study of classical piano. Those studies brought her into the circle of artists forming the Indianist Movement.
Catalina Ortiz became close friends with Juanita Roos, the wife of Indianist composer, Charles A. Roos. At that time, the original descendants of Spanish settlers of California were referred to as "Californios (Californias)" or "Spanish".
Painting the piece I titled, "Spirit Lake" (My Grandmother in a Canoe), I stepped back into my memories of sitting next to her on her white brocade settee as she told stories about each photo in her albums. I doubt I'm done with this inspiration. I love water-sports and have spent a lifetime on the water, windsurfing, swimming and standup paddling. I look forwards to sharing more images from my family album.
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