Peruvian visual artist Claudia Ruiz Gustafson (@claudiaruizgustafson) works and lives in Framingham, MA, USA. Claudia’s work is autobiographical and often influenced by her Peruvian heritage and her cross-cultural experience. In addition to photography, Claudia works with video, collage, poetry, and assemblage. Her series, Votes for Women was created as a tribute to Inez Milholland (1886-1916), a labor lawyer, suffragist and humanist most well-known for leading the women’s march on Washington DC in 1913. Milholland, who passed away at the age of 30 from anemia, “throughout her short life did more than speak and demonstrate for suffrage, her activism extended to trying to improve the lives of all disenfranchised Americans.”
Claudia curates a series of thoughtfully crafted images through the use of symbolism and text that implore the viewer to want to learn more about Inez Milholland and her contributions to the US suffragist movement. Inez's impact on the movement and women’s rights can still be seen today. The sign Inez held at her very first suffrage parade read: Forward, out of error, Leave behind the night, Forward through the darkness, Forward into light! Claudia weaves this historic text into Votes for Women. In 1913, Inez led the first women’s march on Washington, one day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated as president. Inez led thousands of women while riding a white horse, wearing a crown and dressed in a white outfit that included a cape. The impact of this organized march on Washington is still with us over 100 years later, as we have seen in the 2016 Women’s March on Washington. Wearing all white in solidary with women is still in practice and has been used in recent years by groups of US female representatives in response to actions around the country.
Inez graduated with her law degree from NYU. She used her knowledge as a lawyer and her passion for human rights to speak to public officials, while advocating for law enforcement reform, changes to the court system, and of keeping children out of workhouses. Inez spoke out publicly about labor reform and pushed for increased wages for girls who worked in New York’s department stores and factories. She pushed tirelessly for those in power to recognize the humanity of all people regardless of gender or class. Inez Millholland passed away before the 19th amendment was passed. Her last public words were spoken at a march and directed towards President Woodrow Wilson, "Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?" Inez was an intelligent and determined young woman, of whom American women can thank today for the right to vote.
Claudia’s work has been exhibited internationally at such places as the Newport Art Museum, Millepiani Gallery, and Griffin Museum of Photography. She has received awards and grants for her photography from Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Cambridge Art Association, PX3 de la Photographie Paris, to name a few. In addition to her art practice Claudia teaches photography workshop style classes in the Boston area. Claudia has a BA from Universidad de Lima and a Professional Photography Certificate from Kodak Interamericana de Perú.