|| Pele deLappe
came home to San Francisco in the midst of the 1934 maritime strike.
She was 18, back from art school in New York, and she walked the picket
line, raised money for the strikers, drew cartoons for the union newsletter,
and got arrested.
After the strike, in 1935, she painted a series of eight portraits
of longshore workers, seven of them available for view here. They
were intended to be used in a mural, though the mural was never
The subjects were rank-and-file union members just recently back
to work after the '34 strike. "The call went out to the hiring
hall," according to deLappe, "and they came to my studio
on Washington and Montgomery. It took me about a day to do each
portrait." The men came in after work or during their lunch
hour to sit for the portraits. Some of them were seamen, some longshoremen,
and although we do not know their names, deLappe commented in later
years: "My hope is that people who see the pictures might recognize
them as relatives."
The portraits, recently restored and framed for the first time
by the union, now hang in the International Longshore and Warehouse Union
headquarters, testimony to the union's commitment to display art
by and about workers.
Photographs of artwork are by Richard Bermack,2004.