Untitled (Ruth West Coombs), ink and acrylic on canvas, 16×20 ins, 2022

I’m dedicating my new cycle of costal paintings to the memory of Ruth West Coombs and all ‘other’ islanders whose stories & histories yet remain to be told. I’ve spent most summers and many winters on Nantucket, over the past 27 years, and until very recently knew little if anything about these others’ histories.

 
Hats off to Nantucket Historical Association & Museum of African American History – Boston and Nantucket for attempting to re-integrate their stories back into the psyche of a culture that resides on their native land.
 
Untitled (Ruth West Coombs), ink and acrylic on canvas, 12×12 ins, 2022
Homa Taj, Untitled (Ruth West Coombs), ink and acrylic on canvas, 12×12 ins, 2022.
 
Nantucket-born Ruth West (1895–1964) was an artists – a singer and a concert pianist – who was descended from Martha’s Vineyard Wampanoags at both Aquinnah and Chapaquiddick. “She was a member of the Federation of American Indians and performed around New England as Princess Red Feather, ‘the singing princess.’ According to her obituary, ‘She was a descendant of the Indian Chief Massasoit and was a pianist as well as a noted singer. She started piano lessons at the age of nine and when a young lady studied voice in New Bedford.’ She married Mashpee Wampanoag Darius Coombs, who moved to Nantucket with his brother Otis. They are all interred in a family plot in Prospect Hill Cemetery (text courtesy @ACK history).”
 
More about Wapanoag First Nation Americans https://wampanoagtribe-nsn.gov/wampanoag-history
 
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Untitled (Frederic Douglas), ink and acrylic on canvas, 12×12 ins, 2022
“The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.” Frederick Douglass
 
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) was born into slavery, most likely in February 1818 — birth dates of slaves were rarely recorded. He was put to work full-time at age six, and his life as a young man was a litany of savage beatings and whippings. At age twenty, he successfully escaped to the North. In Massachusetts he became known as a voice against slavery, but that also brought to light his status as an escaped slave. Fearing capture and re-enslavement, Douglass went to England and continued speaking out against slavery.
 
He eventually raised enough money to buy his freedom and returned to America. He settled in Rochester, New York in 1847 and began to champion equality and freedom for slaves in earnest. By then, his renown extended far beyond America’s boundaries. He had become a man of international stature. (Nmaahc Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture)
 
This is part of an on-going series of ‘other’ islanders with historic affiliations to Nantucket, as an example of a coastal community and its complex histories. A series inspired by my experiences of living on and off seasons on Nantucket Island, for more than quarter of a century, and informed by my research into Nantucket Historical Association collections, over the past two plus decades.
 
Though Douglas was neither born nor lived on Nantucket, he spoke at the anti-slavery convention held Nantucket Atheneum Great Hall on August 11, 1841, at the urging of famed abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. This would be Douglass’ first address to a mostly white audience. He also visited in 1842, 1843, 1850, and 1885.
 
The Other Islanders is a growing body of portraits to be exhibited as a single work. Commissions accepted for individual portraits. For all inquiries, please contact.