Artworks
Portrait of Lupe
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amcneary's picture

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This sweet, colorful portrait almost looks like the face of a child or a young woman--but it's actually an image of Joan Brown's mother-in-law, Guadalupe.

"Lupe" was the mother of Brown's second husband, sculptor Manuel Neri, to whom Brown was married for four years. Lupe was also grandmother to Brown’s only son, Noel.

The two women allegedly got along well, but Brown and Neri not so much. Their marriage was troubled from the start and lasted just four years. In retrospect, both artists have reflected that the only place their relationship actually worked was in the studio, where they shared spicy creative chemistry.

Family is a recurrent theme in Brown’s work, though it wasn’t the most consistent part of her life. Her relationships with her own parents were complicated. Her father was an alcoholic. Her mother was emotionally withholding, and routinely threatened to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge (and eventually did commit suicide). Brown herself was married four times. Stability was lacking, to say the least, but she threw herself wholeheartedly into her own experience of motherhood.

On a trip to India, Brown met Sathya Sai Baba, a yogic guru to whom she devoted her spiritual practice, and whom she eventually came to think of as a sort of spiritual parent. It was on another trip to India with Noel in 1990, to install an obelisk in honor of Sai Baba’s 65th birthday, that Brown was killed by a collapsing pillar of the museum. She was only 52. But after a tumultuous life, she had finally reached inner peace and fulfillment through her spiritual community. In the end, she did find her kin.