The Glorious Notorious RBG
It isn’t every day that an American icon paints a portrait of another American icon, but that’s what’s so extraordinary about Joan Baez’s portrait of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg, aka RBG.
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Originally a commission from a fan of both Joan and Justice Ginsburg, the portrait fit snugly into the pantheon of “Mischief Makers” (leaders who make a difference through nonviolent social change) that was the theme of Joan’s debut exhibit of portraits at the Seager Gray Gallery in 2017.
“Characterized by thoughtfulness and an ability to listen, RBG brings common sense and humor to the weighty decisions of the court,” Joan says. “And, with all that, at the age of 85, she has become a cult figure adored by young people.”
An articulate advocate for women’s rights throughout her legal career, before becoming a judge she was general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), arguing six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, winning five of them, and inspiring a generation of feminists. In 1993, after President Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court, she would become only the second woman — after Sandra Day O’Connor — confirmed to the highest court in the land.
During her tenure, she has voted with the majority to uphold the Affordable Care Act and to make same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, among other landmark rulings. After the retirement of Justice O’Connor in 2006, she was the only female justice on the court for a time, and her fiery dissents during that period made her something of a pop culture icon. She was dubbed "Notorious R.B.G.,” a spunky nickname her admirers borrowed from the rapper Notorious B.I.G.
Remarkably, Justice Ginsburg has survived colon and pancreatic cancer and works out with a personal trainer twice a week in the justices-only gym. She could do 20 full push-ups before her 80th birthday.
Of late, her celebrity has only grown with the New York Times bestselling book of her writings, “My Own Words,” Kate McKinnon’s hilarious impression of her on “Saturday Night Live” and the acclaimed documentary “RBG,” which premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. A feature film, “On the Basis of Sex,” about Justice Ginsburg’s struggles for women’s rights, is set for future release with Felicity Jones as RBG and Armie Hammer as her husband, Marty.
Now a member of the liberal minority on the court, RBG has no intention of retiring anytime soon. She hopes to serve for another five years at least — another reason for her to be immortalized in a portrait by another lifelong advocate and voice for social justice, Joan Baez.
“RBG speaks truth to power, and gives teeth to truth,” Joan says. “She is counted on for her nonpartisanship and fairness, things that are now so scantily present in the offices of the highest law of the land.”
So, don’t forget, you can’t spell “truth” without Ruth.
limited edition archival pigment print
edition of 75
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