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Ester Hernández (born 1944)
Sun Mad Raisins, 1982
serigraph
55.9 x 43.2 cm (22 x 17 in.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of Tomás Ybarra-Frausto
© 1982 Ester Hern´ndez

At first glance this poster seems to present the familiar image of a popular product, but then Ester Hernández's smiling skeleton grape picker emerges. The artist warns of the health hazards to farm workers from contaminated water. This is only one of the many issues Hernández has exposed through her involvement with Latina women and their lives in America.

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Biography of Ester Hernández

When Ester Hernández was a child she watched as Chicano farmworkers marched through her home town of Dinuba, California, and were harassed by other local residents. Despite the danger, her family greeted the workers and their leader, César Chávez. At Grove Street College in Oakland, California, as she learned more about Chicano studies, she turned to the art department as an outlet for her anger about the treatment of Latina women. She was disappointed to find only one Chicano teacher who understood her need to be an effective agitator rather than "one of the boys" who would emulate the accepted, abstract New York art style. Eventually Hernández met and joined Rupert García's classes in San Francisco and was invited to enter a Latina womens' art exhibition.

Hernández's posters have been controversial. She recounts how Sun Mad began when she went "home to visit my mother in 1979, reading the articles she saved about water contamination in the barrio." After thinking about it for two years, remembering how she had worked as a farmhand, she focused her anger on the dangers of growing grapes for the raisin industry. "I focused on something personal, the Sun Maid box," Hernandez said. "Slowly I began to realize how to transform the Sun Maid and unmask the truth behind the wholesome figures of agribusiness. Sun Mad evolved out of my anger and my fear of what would happen to my family, my community, and to myself." Hernández finds strength and inspiration in the Latina women with whom she has worked.

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