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Collection Connection: Leticia Huckaby
Jenelle Esparza, Museum Educator
Leticia Huckaby was born in Augsburg, Germany but her memories and heritage are in the American South where she and her family grew up. I was struck by her work because of the remarkable texture and sharpness of detail, but mostly it was the nostalgia that drew me in. This specific portrait is a lithograph made after a series titled Flour where the artist paired vintage flour sacks with printed photographs of various family members from her personal archive.
A little background on the flour sack—flour used to be sold in bulk cotton sacks often with simple floral patterns printed on them. After the contents of the sacks were depleted, many re-purposed the printed cotton fabric into clothing for small children or other useful items. A common practice among American communities during the Great Depression, this up-cycling stretched limited resources a bit further.
I can remember my grandmother telling stories of how her mother made both dresses and several pairs of undergarments out of those cotton sacks for her and her sisters. Resourcefulness was a strong skill of that generation.
This generational reference is unmistakable in Huckaby’s lithograph titled Halle Lujah (Flour Girl). In the print, a flour sack becomes a cultural display of her family heritage that uses everyday materials. The pink, blue, and white pattern is encased in the outline of a flour sack laid on a flat surface and its large, machine-stitched seam along the side of the image lines the composition and proudly defines what the shape is referencing. The photograph printed in the foreground is of a small child wearing a sun dress with a pattern that seamlessly bleeds into the background creating an endless field of flowers around the young child.
The artist’s use of a black and white photo image amidst the full color pastels of the pattern is intentional to tell of an earlier, much younger America. The fact that the young girl in the photograph is from the artist’s personal family archive points to a need to represent the past, present, and future of their lineage.
Explore Letitia Huckaby’s print in the McNay Collection here.
Jenelle Esparza is an interdisciplinary artist who was born in Corpus Christi, TX. Her work examines the lesser-known history of cotton and labor in South Texas through photography and textiles, and incorporates concepts of body movement, history, gender, identity, culture, and race. At the McNay, she works in the Education department as an Educator.
Image: Letitia Huckaby, Halle Lujah (Flour Girl), 2011. Lithograph with collage. Gift of Marge and Al Miller. Collection of the McNay Art Museum.