GOMEZ, MARSHA ANNE
GOMEZ, MARSHA ANNE (1951–1998). Marsha Anne Gomez, sculptor, art teacher, and social activist, daughter of Anna Lula (Bueche) Gomez and Walter Anthony Gomez, Jr., was born on December 24, 1951, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She was the eldest of five siblings. Her father, a Canary Islander, was a well-known member of the Central Baptist Church of Baton Rouge and owned his own construction business which provided a comfortable lifestyle for the family. Because he was well-respected in business and in the community, he served as an inspiration to Marsha. When she was a child, her father fought with Dow Chemicals in 1959 for “dumping toxic chemicals in the Achafalaya Basin.” Her mother was of Choctaw and Cajun ancestry.
Gomez’s college education started in Nicholls State College in Thibodaux, Louisiana, in 1969; she majored in special education with an art education minor and received an associate degree in 1971. From 1979 to 1981 she attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and earned a bachelor’s degree in art education. She was also a doctoral candidate at the American Institute of Holistic Theology. In 1981 Gomez moved to Austin, Texas, where she became a well-known sculptor and teacher. She taught pottery at the Dougherty Arts Center and was also an instructor in the Artist-in-Education program, which was sponsored by the city of Austin and the Texas Commission on the Arts.
Gomez celebrated her indigenous heritage through her art and developed a passion for helping indigenous people. She was an active participant in LGBTQ and women’s rights campaigns as well as environmental causes. In 1983 she was one of the founders of the Indigenous Women’s Network, which eventually expanded to include and represent women from many nations. That same year, she also established Artistas Indigenas, “an arts organization of indigenous women headquartered in Austin.” In 1986 Gomez joined forces with Genevieve Vaughan to establish what eventually became the Foundation for a Compassionate Society. Gomez became the director of the foundation’s twenty-two-acre retreat center, Alma de Mujer Center for Social Change, in 1994 when Vaughan donated the center to the Indigenous Women’s Network. As director, Gomez also created an organic garden on the grounds and maintained her own art studio there.
In 1987 Marsha Anne Gomez was commissioned by Genevieve Vaughan to create a life-size sculpture called Madre Del Mundo (Mother of the World) for a 1988 Mother’s Day protest on Western Shoshone land just outside of a nuclear test site located in Nye County, Nevada. The sculpture, which depicted an indigenous woman holding a globe in her lap, was confiscated by the Bureau of Land Management but was later released after several disputes. The Madre Del Mundo sculpture, which was heralded as an “emblem of ecofeminism” was replicated by Gomez, and copies were located in several planned sites around the country. A second Madre was erected near Pantex in the Texas Panhandle, and a third sculpture was erected in Brownsville at the indigenous resource center Casa de Colores. Her creation of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet (sculpted in 1993) as well as a Madre replica are located in Cactus Springs, Nevada.
Marsha Anne Gomez, a single mother, had a son, Mekaya, in 1974. He suffered from schizophrenia, which surfaced during his twenties, and he became increasingly violent. Although she tried to get help for her son, Mekaya, on September 29, 1998, murdered his mother on the rock patio of their Lake Travis home in Austin. The funeral at Alma de Mujer for Marsha Gomez brought mourners from Mexico, Canada, and many regions of the United States. After serving a portion of his sentence for the murder, Mekaya Gomez was found dead of unknown causes in prison in 2002.
Teresa Palomo Acosta and Ruth Winegarten, Las Tejanas: 300 Years of Texas History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003). Austin American-Statesman, December 11, 1999. “Marsha Gómez, Sculptor, 1951–1998, Gallery of Great Texas Women, University of Texas at Austin http://texaswomen.housing.utexas.edu/pdfs/gomez.pdf), accessed January 24, 2018. Susan War, ed., and Stacy Braukman, asst. ed., Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary Completing the Twentieth Century (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2004).
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