Inverna Lockpez, painter, was born in Habana, Cuba, where she attended medical school at the University of Habana, studied painting and sculpture at the National Academy of San Alejandro, and printmaking at Taller de Grabado, both in Habana.
In the late 1960s Ms. Lockpez came to the United States and traveled throughout the country until settling in New York, where she attended the School of Social Work at Columbia University. In 1969 she participated in an art exhibit at the famed Woodstock Music Festival in upstate New York. The exhibition was rained out and the rest is history. She exhibited several 12-foot, 3-dimensional works in the first feminist exhibition in the United States, entitled "X12," and later became part of NYC Women Artists in Revolution, where she worked to organize demonstrations against museums and galleries that did not exhibit the work of women artists. A series of political shows followed, such as "The Flag Show" at the Judson Memorial Church, an anti-Vietnam show; "Women Choose Women" at the NY Department of Cultural Affairs, where Lockpez exhibited a 15-foot sculpture entitled "Ms", the first time the word was used as a title in a public exhibition; "MOD ART"” at the Public Theater in NYC, in conjunction with one of the first feminist musical plays, entitled "MOD DONNA"; and "Erotic Garden" at the Women's Interart Center in New York, where artists were reclaiming their sexuality in visual terms.
In the early 70s, sculpture being her predominant medium of expression Ms. Lockpez won a major outdoor competition in New York under the auspices of The Municipal Art Society. Her piece was a 25-foot sculpture entitled "Walking Pineapples.” New York aesthetics, dominated by minimalist and conceptual art at the time, and the New York City Art Commission, objected to her design. The controversy of Ms. Lockpez was followed for months in the New York Times and the national media. After a long debate, the piece was built, making her first American experience of negotiation and compromise rather painful. Concurrently she was exhibiting at the Aldrich Museum in Connecticut, Artist Space, 55 Street Mercer Gallery, and Pratt Institute, all three in New York. She was commissioned by community centers in the Bronx to paint two indoor murals. Her graphic design posters were published by the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, book covers by the Theater Communication Group, and sets and costumes by various theaters. In New York, Inverna directed a controversial play, My Sister in This House, by playwright Wendy Kesselman based on a famous crime that took place in Le Mans, France in the early 20s.
In the 1980s Inverna returned to painting, focusing in themes that related to ecology and the environment. She studied film, video, and computer graphics at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Her work was shown at Rutgers University, New Jersey; Hamilton College, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, New York; C.W. Post, Long Island University; the El Paso Museum of Fine Arts, Texas; Art in General, ABC No Rio; and Kenkeleba House, all in New York; Nexus Gallery, Philadelphia, and Women and Their Work Art Gallery in Austin, Texas. She became the director of INTAR (Internal Arts Relation) Gallery, where she curated more than 100 exhibitions, introducing themes and artists shown in New York for the first time. Selected by the magazine Art in America under her direction, INTAR Gallery became one of the best 15 galleries in the country for more than seven years.
Ms. Lockpez curated "Lydia Cabrera: An Intimate Portrait" (the first retrospective on the life and work of the leading authority on Afro-Cuban culture; a three-part Afro-Cuban music series and lectures accompanied this exhibition); "Chicano Expressions: A New View in American Art" (the first comprehensive exhibition of Chicano art in the Northeast; more than 50 artists were represented in conjunction with two symposia); "Autobiography: In Her Own Image" (traveling exhibition of 18 artists — Latin, African, Asian and Native American visual artists sensibilities); "Another Face of the Diamond: Pathways Through the Black Atlantic South" (traveling exhibition of 11 outsider artists) first exhibited in NYC, 1989; "W.A.R.M. Show" (first NY showing by the Women's Collective of Minneapolis); "Women of the Southwest” (15 women artists from the southwest introduced for the first time in NY galleries); "Posters of the Spanish Civil War, 1937–38," (first exhibition in New York City); "Outside Cuba" (traveling exhibition of six generations of Cuban visual artists, the first in the United States. This exhibit was co-curated with Ricardo Riviera and Ricardo Paul-Llosa); "Rejoining the Spiritual: The Land in Contemporary Latin American Art”, the Maryland Institute of Art; and "Inquisitive Arts” (Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, Portland, Oregon), and many others.
In 1985, Inverna bought a farmhouse in Delaware County and built a studio. Overwhelmed by the lusciousness of the land, for the first seven years she only painted in black and white. Her series "Markings of the Land"” were full of bold mountains and animal iconography.
In 1988 Ms. Lockpez became the president of the National Association of Artists’ Organizations (NAAO) in Washington, D.C., presiding during the controversial years of the Maplethorpe and Serrano exhibitions in which the U.S. government wanted to cut funds from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA). During the same period, Ms. Lockpez was also curating and lecturing in universities, visual art centers, and museums throughout the United States and became a consultant and panelist for more than 15 different agencies: Lila Wallace—Reader’s Digest International, Artist Panel; AT&T New Art/New Visions International Program; Jerome Foundation, Minneapolis, MN; Arts Midwest, Minneapolis, MN; State of Washington Arts Commission, Art in Public Places Program; Department of Cultural Affairs, New York; National Endowment for the Arts: policy-making panel, Visual Arts; New York Council for the Humanities; New York State Council on the Arts; Massachusetts Arts Council; Michigan State Arts Council; Ohio Arts Council; Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans; Mass Transit Authority, Art for Transit; and Columbia University, Center for American Culture Studies.
The 1990s and Beyond
In the 1990s Ms. Lockpez's work had already been part of more than 80 exhibits around the country when she began incorporating a wider palate and pastoral themes into her ecological concerns. Her work began showing in galleries and non-for-profit organizations in upstate New York. In 2001, she became the director of the Catskill Center's Erpf Gallery in Arkville and its Platte Clove Artists-in-Residence program. Her work has been on the covers of Eduardo Machado Four New Plays, Margaretville Telephone Company, On New Ground, and The Valley Table, all magazines. She is listed in Feminists Who Changed America 1963–1975, edited by Barbara J. Love.
Ms. Lockpez received various grants from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA); (two) Creative Artists Public Service (CAPS); (two) CINTAS Foundation Fellowship; Vogelstein Foundation; CETA Award; and (two) Roxbury Arts Group-NYSCA Decentralization Grant.
In the last ten years Ms. Lockpez's paintings have been paying tribute to the Catskills landscape and more specifically to symbols of farm culture. In the year 2000 she began a series entitled The Noble Barn, which includes more than forty pieces of work representing Delaware County barns.
In 2008 Inverna wrote a graphic novel inspired by her coming of age experiences in Cuba in the 1950s and 60s. In 2010 Cuba: My Revolution was published by DC Comics/Vertigo, illustrated by Emmy Award-winner Dean Haspiel, and colored by Jose Villarubia. The Kentler International Drawing Space in Brooklyn, NY, displayed Inverna’s original pencil drawings from the 1960s that were incorporated into the book, as well as Haspiel’s original sketches and layouts of the graphic novel.
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