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Rini Templeton, Folio: Homage to Neruda

Portfolio of 10 silkscreens

Rini Templeton
Lucille Corinne Templeton (July 1, 1935—June 15, 1986), better known as "Rini" Templeton, was an American graphic artist, sculptor, and political activist. She was most active in Mexico and the Southwestern United States, although she also volunteered in Cuba and Nicaragua after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution and the electoral victory of the F.S.L.N. Although her name is not well known, her uncredited work has been used on countless fliers, posters, and banners for the labor, feminist, and social justice movements.

Templeton was born in Buffalo, New York to a middle-class family. Her mother had two other children, a boy and a girl, before her family relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1943, where her father worked for the government's Bureau of the Budget. She exhibited signs of genius early on, and a local daily called The Evening Star published her poem about V-E Day on May 13, 1945. Her family moved to Chicago in June 1946, and, in 1947, she was given a full scholarship to the University of Chicago Laboratory School. From 1947—1949, she was a "Quiz Kid" on a NBC radio (and later television) show that featured questions asked of child prodigies in their fields of interest. Her winnings from the show later provided her independence from her family and from many economic pressures. This allowed her to travel, to dedicate herself to art and activism, and to donate her art to the struggles she espoused. She built her own darkroom at age 13, and, in 1949, published a collection of poems entitled Chicagoverse (under the name "Rinny" Templeton).
By 1950, she was the editor of the school's paper, and was on the editorial board of the Chicago Maroon (the whole of which faced McCarthy-era blacklisting) from 1951—1952. She hitchhiked around the U.S. from 1952–1954, and traveled Europe from 1955—1957, during which time she began a study of sculpture under Bernard Meadows at the Bath Academy in Corsham, England (where she briefly wed Scottish musician Alistair Graham) and spent time busking on the streets of London. She produced her first known commercial artwork in Majorca, Spain at the end of 1956, before resettling in Taos, New Mexico. She spent the next six years primarily in Taos, during which time she was art editor with Edward Abbey for the progressive newspaper El Crepúsculo, but also studied sculpture at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine, and printmaking at La Esmeralda in Mexico City. It was at this time that Templeton became involved in the Cuban Revolution.

On January 1, 1959, Templeton was in Havana, Cuba, having entered the country from Mexico with a group of students, to welcome the insurgents led by Fidel Castro as they entered the city. In early 1961, when an American invasion seemed eminent, she became active with the organization Amigos de Cuba, a group of Americans resident in Cuba who opposed intervention. The Amigos wrote articles, circulated petitions, and marched in opposition to the Bay of Pigs invasion. She then enlisted in one of the Worker's Brigades and was stationed in Las Vegas del Toro, a village near the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay. From September to December 1961, she participated in the Cuban government's literacy campaign. In the same year, she attended the First Congress of Writers and Artists and the Festival de Teatro Obrero-Campesino, and before leaving the country in 1964, had cut sugarcane, taught ceramics, and founded the Taller de Grabado de la Catedral de la Habana (Havana Cathedral Printmaking Workshop). She also wrote articles in defense of the Revolution for the National Guardian. At some point during her stay in Cuban, she married a Cuban artist who she presumably later divorced. She was initially denied re-entry into the United States, but was finally permitted on the condition that she not speak about her experiences in Cuba or the successes of the Cuban government.

Templeton returned to Taos in 1965, moving shortly thereafter to nearby Pilar Hill, where she married artist John DePuy in 1966. She was staff artist of El Grito del Norte from 1968–1973, a journal initially founded in support of the Alianza Federal de Mercedes, and staff artist of The New Mexico Review and Legislative Journal from 1969—1972, during which time she worked closely with novelist John Nichols. Both publications were leftist journals that covered the Vietnam War, the land struggles at Tierra Amarilla, U.S. intervention in Latin America, and other issues of concern to Chicanos, Native Americans, and progressives. She had her first solo exhibition, in 1969, at the Stables Gallery of the Taos Art Association. In 1970, she taught an art workshop to patients at the Austen Riggs Center, a Stockbridge, Massachusetts psychiatric hospital. She had separated from DePuy by 1973. After El Grito ceased publication, she worked with her former colleague from the paper Elizabeth Martínez on 450 Years of Chicano History/450 Años del Pueblo Chicano, which, when published in 1976, was one of the first Chicano histories. She also set up a workshop to teach silkscreening to young people, and, just after the coup against the government of Salvador Allende, provided images for a large pamphlet of the Pablo Neruda's poetry, intended to raise money for the struggle of the Chilean people.

In 1974, Templeton moved to Mexico, joining Mexico City's Taller de Gráfica Popular, which had been founded forty years earlier by Leopoldo Méndez. At that time, the Mexican Left was fighting on two major fronts: against charrismo and against IMF-imposed austerity policies. Austerity capped wages, limited benefits, and crippled unions. The Mexican labor movement had suffered severe setbacks in prior years, but was engaged in a bitter and at times violent struggle nonetheless. It was to these parallel struggles that Templeton dedicated her time and talent, travelling to strikes and demonstrations throughout the country and often returning to the United States for mobilizations. Wherever she went, she drew what she saw and donated her art to the cause.

Templeton began keeping sketchbooks during her youth. These sketchbooks accompanied her on her travels and she used them to draw what she saw. She incorporated stylization and abstraction via simplification into her style early on, eventually perfecting a genre she called "Xerox art". "Xerox art" refers to simple ink drawings that are easily reproducible using a photocopy (or Xerox) machine. This facilitated their use on signs and banners at demonstrations and in low-budget publications. A primary function of her work was didactic. She wrote and illustrated informational pamphlets on many subjects. She also wrote and illustrated two bilingual children's books that emphasized the social and moral value of labor, People Who Work in the Hospital/La Gente que Trabaja en el Hospital and People Who Work in the Supermarket/La Gente que Trabaja en los Supermercados. She also provided illustrations for a publication of the government of the Mexican state of Campeche entitled Los Ninos de Campeche Cantan y Juegan. Templeton produced almost-yearly pamphlets for the annual March 8 celebration of International Women's Day, and her work often features women prominently. Having mastered Spanish early on, she translated articles and prepared graphics for "Revolution and Intervention in Central America," a Special Emergency Issue of Contemporary Marxism. She also organized a travelling "mini-expo" for the Data Center in Oakland called "Your Right to Know" that examined issues of information accessibility in the United States. Her works continues to be used in NACLA publications.
It was during her time in New Mexico that she began sculpting in earnest. Here sculptures, mostly of welded or cast metal, reflected the influence of the natural forms of landforms, plants, and birds. She created dozens of works before quitting sculpting. Also, in New Mexico, she provided illustrations for John Nichols' The Milagro Beanfield War.
While in Mexico, she illustrated pamphlet on occupational safety in nuclear industries. She even produced a pamphlet on how to produce pamphlets. Rather than focussing on leaders, Templeton's visual works tend to emphasize collectivism, a crucial aspect of the labor and Chicano movements. They depict individuals with commitment, dignity, and intelligence, and in some ways visually refute the common stereotype of the "unwashed proletariat". She particularly enjoyed documenting cultural celebrations. Her final graphic work consisted of illustrations for Daniel Molina's Tlatelolco Mi Amor, a collection of writings highlighting Tlatelolco's centrality to the Mexican national identity. She did the cover art for his collection of poems Como Quieras; also highlights her print works in Mexico for record covers and concert ads for Los Folkloristas, Amparo Ochoa, Oscar Chavez and Salario Minimo.

On June 15, 1986, Templeton's body was found in her silkscreen studio. No cause of death was determined, but heart or lung failure are suspected, as she was a heavy smoker of unfiltered cigarettes. Her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered in New Mexico. In March 1987, the Rini Templeton Workshop was instituted at UNAM's school of graphic design. And in April 1987, a 490-unit apartment complex for earthquake victims in Mexico City was named for her in honor of her relief efforts.
Folio: Homage to Neruda, 1960s
print silkscreen
paper: 19 1/2 × 12 1/2 in. (49.5 × 31.8 cm)
Collection of the Harwood Museum of Art