16 1/8 x 9 3/4 in. (41 x 24.8 cm)
(Corato, Italy, 1910 - 1996, Rochester, NY)
Medium and Support:
Egg tempera and gold leaf on panel
Location: Currently on view
Born in Italy, Josephine Tota moved to Rochester with her family in 1920. Like many immigrants in the region, Tota and family members worked in the garment industry. After raising her daughter and retiring from her job as a seamstress, Tota spent her days painting in the privacy of her apartment on Highland Avenue.
The paintings Tota made in her last decade frequently address the internal conflicts and anxieties that confronted her throughout her life. This self-portrait relates to an experience in 1984, when her eyesight was threatened from complications during cataract surgery. The boxed-in figure evokes her overwhelming feelings of suffocating isolation and confinement. The starlight pattern of the surrounding border echoes the visual effects caused by the cataracts whenever she looked at light.
[Hawks Gallery reinstallation, summer 2019]