Steve Cavallo poses with his portrait of Beverly Mestas Newell, who said, “When they dig up 2,000-year-old bones, I’m probably related … part of that person. I am here where I came from.” (Image courtesy of Steve Cavallo)

On Saturday, Oct. 15, at 11 a.m., the public is invited to the opening of artist Steve Cavallo’s watercolor exhibit “Portraits of the People of Payahuunadü” in the Manzanar Visitor Center.

Elders will provide a welcome and comments, the Stone Family of Big Pine will offer a traditional song, and the artist will share brief reflections on creating the show. After the program, Manzanar’s nonprofit partner Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association will provide light refreshments.

“Portraits of the People of Payahuunadü” honors indigenous peoples whose connections to this valley stretch back to time immemorial. The large watercolor portraits highlight people ranging in age from mid-20s to mid-90s, including Kathy Jefferson Bancroft, Irene and Gene Button, Kathleen Delgado, Barbara Hanson, Joanne Howard, Beverly Mestas Newell, Julia and Lucy Parker, Talicia Rico, Sage and Shannon Romero, Cheyenne Stone, Jolie Varela, and Harry and Noah Williams.

Tribal Elder Beverly Mestas Newell watches people speed by her home on the Lone Pine reservation. “They think it’s an empty desert, but this is home to individuals, families, and communities,” she explains. “It’s good that this exhibit shows who we are.” 

Manzanar Superintendent Brenda Ling said, “We are delighted to host another Cavallo exhibit in 2022. His portraits bring forth the rich stories of people of the Payahuunadü and inspire reflection about the long history of this valley.”

Manzanar National Historic Site first collaborated with artist Cavallo in 2016 to create “Looking Back, Seeing Ahead,” a show of similar portraits of Japanese Americans who had been incarcerated at Manzanar and other camps. Cavallo paints in dramatic realism, focusing on the human figure as the defining element of his work, reflecting people’s stories with pathos and joy.

Cavallo reflected, “As an adolescent, my interests in art and music have always evolved around human rights issues.” In recent years, he has also painted Holocaust survivors, Korean “comfort women,” and undocumented immigrants.

Manzanar National Historic Site is located at 5001 Highway 395, six miles south of Independence. The visitor center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at  https://www.nps.gov/manz, and social media on Facebook, YouTube, andInstagram.

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