FRANK CIECIORKA, a nationally recognized watercolor painter, political artist, activist, and author who drew many of the iconic images of the 1960s, including the clenched fist and the black panther, died November 24, 2008 at his home in Alderpoint, California. The cause was emphysema.
Born April 26, 1939, Frank grew up in the upstate New York factory town of Johnson City where his father worked at a grocery store. Frank began work at the age of 14 as a bowling alley pin-boy and then on the assembly line at the local shoe factory. Recognized since childhood for his artistic talent, he enrolled in the fine arts program at San Jose State College in 1957, where he became an anti-war activist, protesting military interventions in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic.
On graduating in 1964, Frank volunteered for Freedom Summer in Mississippi and later was hired as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He helped organize African-Americans to register to vote and assisted in organizing the racially integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged the all-white official Democratic Party. Frank also wrote and illustrated Negroes in American History-A Freedom Primer, taught in Freedom Schools throughout the south. His book is still used as a resource text.
Frank continued his political activism in San Francisco, where he became artistic director of THE MOVEMENT, a national newspaper of community, anti-war, and civil rights organizing. His political artistry there and at PEOPLES PRESS inspired a generation of activist artists.
At the end of the Sixties, tired of city life, Frank became an avid backpacker. In 1972 he purchased a half-acre plot in rural Alderpoint, where he designed and built his own home and studio, and turned to watercolor painting. His works celebrate the southern Humboldt County countryside, the beauty of the female figure in natural settings, and ordinary people doing what they do.
He is survived by his wife, the painter Karen Horn, with whom he enjoyed over 25 years of love and artistic dialogue. He is also survived by his step-daughter, Zena Goldman Hunt and her family and by his brother, James Cieciorka and his wife, Jean. Family and friends rejoice in having shared Frank's life: a testimony to political and artistic passion.