Last Saturday, artist Barbara Mumby passed the 99th hour mark working on her canvas: A large mural on Clarion Alley, a small lane between Mission and Valencia streets, just north of 17th Street.
With Adele’s music playing in the background, Mumby stood on the fourth rung of a ladder, wearing a utility vest, holding a palette and painting one of 13 portraits on the turquoise wall.
The portraits feature Indigenous women from the Bay Area who have dedicated themselves to supporting the Native community. A red ribbon along the top of the wall reads “Our Matriarchs.”
The 53-year-old said she chose the women because they are living, and older than herself. Often, she said, it is the elders who function as the glue in their communities. More important, they are all special to her personally. “They’re inspiring, and have also just been very supportive of me,” she said. “This is my way of giving back to them.”
The mural is part of a larger display of 10 murals titled “Manifest Differently,” organized by the Clarion Alley Mural project. Today, from noon until 5 p.m., an unveiling celebration will take place. Artists, guests, and even some of the matriarchs will be in attendance.
Across Mumby’s mural, colorful hummingbirds carry red ribbons in their beaks, representing ancestors gone before, she said.
Among the matriarchs, there is Kim Shuck, a renowned Cherokee nation poet; Dr. Lanada War Jack, one of the organizers of the Occupation of Alcatraz; and Dr. Concha Saucedo Martinez, who is Mexican-Yaqui-Chicana and co-founded Instituto Familiar de la Raza, a Mission-based nonprofit.
Each one is shown inside a frame made to look like tree branches. Mumby said she’ll add flowers onto them, too — one of the few final touches still remaining last weekend.
The portraits include women from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. “I wanted to show that I don’t recognize colonial borders,” said Mumby.
Mumby has painted for many years, alongside other jobs. She worked in arts administration for several years, and currently teaches painting two days a week at Ohlone College.
She grew up in the Central Valley, but since she moved to San Francisco, she has been heavily involved in grassroots organizing, including for the removal of the “Early Days” statue depicting Native Americans at the feet of conquistadors.
Mumby uses her art as a voice for social justice. Her mural is directly placed at the opening of Clarion Alley; it is the first mural you see upon entering from Valencia Street. Mumby aims to shift a power balance, and show a woman highlighting other women, in a realm where art oftentimes is created by men, she said.