Henrietta began to experiment freely with drawing alongside her sister while their parents worked six long days a week. “We made our dolls from mud, with corn silk hair and concocted paint from mulberries, boiled onions and washtub bluing.” Later on, Henrietta would become a working journalist in Latin America, only to return to paint to translate the information she was getting as she interviewed folks living in villages and on farms. Today her chosen medium is paint incorporating mixed media such as construction netting, cardboard and found objects. Her work is about social issues – the plight of refugees, injustice and mass incarceration, segregation, rape and selling girls, and women’s issues.
She currently works from her New York City studio and frequents artist residences. She names one of her greatest challenges as “not stand[ing] in the way of the art process with fixed ideas.” Recently, her installations “Jail Birds & The New Jim Crow” addressed mass incarceration in our country. Two have been exhibited upstate in Woodstock and the village of Catskill (areas where there are some of the 69 prisons’ “correctional facilities” in New York State). Henrietta uses painted birds as stand-ins for inmates, guards and judges. Four persons who work professionally or volunteer in prisons spoke at special events related to the artwork. A fifth speaker was an ex-inmate who had learned modern dance from a volunteer in prison. Henrietta is currently working on two new installations “White Washing U.S. Prisons” and “It’s Like We’re In There With Em,” which demonstrate the devastating effects of mass incarceration on Black families. Painted portraits and figures will tell stories Henrietta collects from ex-inmates and their family members, some of whom will also speak publicly as part of special events related to the work.