Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Black History Month Journey of Celebrating Women in the Arts: Edmonia Lewis

  • Mary Edmonia Lewis (ca. July 4, 1845 – ca. 1911) was the first African American and Native American woman to gain fame and recognition as a sculptor in the international fine arts world. She was of African American, Haitian and Ojibwe descent.
  • Lewis crafted her own sculpting tools and sold her first piece, a sculpture of a woman’s hand, for $8. She opened her studio to the public in her first solo exhibit in 1864.
  • A major coup in her career was participating in the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. For this, she created a monumental 3,015-pound marble sculpture, The Death of Cleopatra, which dramatically portrayed the queen in the throes of death. Of the piece, J. S. Ingraham wrote that Cleopatra was “the most remarkable piece of sculpture in the American section” of the Exposition. Much of the viewing public was shocked by Lewis’ frank portrayal of death, but the statue drew thousands of viewers. After being placed in storage, the statue was lost. After 120 years, it was discovered in a Sotheby’s auction. After authentication, it was donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Black History Month Journey of Celebrating Women in the Arts: Lois Mailou Jones

  • After marrying Haitian artist Louis Vergniaud Pierre-Noel in 1953, Jones traveled and lived in Haiti. In many of her pieces one can see the influence of the Haitian culture, with its African influences, which reinvigorated the way she looked at the world. Her work became more abstract and hard-edged, after her marriage to Pierre-Noel. Her impressionist techniques gave way to a spirited, richly patterned, and brilliantly colored style. Further travels to eleven African countries enabled Jones to synthesize a body of designs and motifs that she combined in large, complex compositions.
  • In 1980, she was honored by President Jimmy Carter at the White House for outstanding achievements in the arts. Her paintings grace the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Museum of American Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Portrait Gallery, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the National Palace in Haiti, and the National Museum of Afro-American Artists and many others.
  • As her biographer Tritobia Haves Benjamin told Beth Baker of "Ebony", "She is a reflection of the varied facets that represent American art. Just as American art has unfolded, embracing different styles and different cultures, so too has Jones' career."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Black History Month Journey of Celebrating Women in the Arts: Augusta Savage

  • Augusta Savage (February 29, 1892 – March 26, 1962) was a sculptor whose works were associated with the Harlem Renaissance. In New York, she enrolled in a free art program at Cooper Union while taking in washing to make ends meet. Subsequently, she was selected to participate in a summer program in France but was denied by the French government because of her race. Savage publicized the incident and while the decision was not reversed, she did receive an offer to study with a leading sculptor, Herman Atkins MacNeil.
  • In 1934, Savage became the first African-American artist to be elected to the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors.
  • Known for her figurative sculpture and devotion to teaching younger African American artists such as Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Ernie Critchlow, Savage was an icon of the Harlem Renaissance and Works Progress Administration periods.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thank you Lord today for...

The future....

Not knowing what's in store...
Being inspired by the infinite possibilities...
And having faith that you've got it all in Your Hands. 

I love you, Jesus!


My Black History Month Journey of Celebrating Women in the Arts: Deborah Willis

  • Deborah Willis, PhD, MacArthur Fellow, photographer, scholar, historian and griot, is widely acknowledged as the doyen of Black Photography.
  • She is the award-winning author of "Reflections in Black," a prodigious book published in 2000, which documents the photographed lives of African-Americans by African-Americans, 1840 to the present. Willis is the chair of the photography and imaging department at the Tisch School of the Arts, and in the lead-up to the eventful 2008 presidential election, she penned the best-selling book, "Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs."
  • Favorite Quote - And never would I ever dream that someone was actually watching my work and compiling information until I received the call about the MacArthur Genius Award in 2002. I didn’t even know that anyone was thinking that I had created a new field that was overlooked in the larger field of photography. That’s something that changed my life in terms of thinking about this work…what a way to say: “good job, girl.” That’s why I never think about the future, I just live for the day.

Who is behind camera #1?

I've got to admit - when it comes to black women in the arts, I can chat about literature, theatre, film, and dance, but I'm a bit rusty in the disciplines of the visual arts.  I know my ladies whose skills represent the lowcountry of South Carolina - Cassandra Gillens and Dianne Britton Dunham, to name a few. 

And I've been introduced to ladies whose works frequent the Studio Museum in Harlem - Lorna Simpson and Kara Walker are the ones I really really admired. 

But on a national and historical scale, I've got to do my homework!!!

And that, I'm happy to say, is a profound lesson in my Black History Month Journey - exploring the impact of black female artists on the visual arts world is something I can't wait to dig into!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Black History Month Journey of Celebrating Women in the Arts: Nikki Giovanni

  • One of the most widely read American poets of our time, Giovanni has taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech since 1987, where she is a University Distinguished Professor. She has written more than two-dozen books, including volumes of poetry, illustrated children’s books, and three collections of essays. She has also received 21 honorary doctorates.
  • With ever-growing popularity, Giovanni has received many honors and awards for her work, including numerous honorary degrees, the NAACP Image Award for Literature in 1998 and 2000, and the Langston Hughes Award for Distinguished Contributions to Arts and Letters in 1996. She has also been named Woman of the Year by several magazines, including Mademoiselle, Essence and Ladies Home Journal.
  • Favorite Nikki quote - Her book, Love Poems (1997), was written in memory of Tupac Shakur and she has stated that she would “rather be with the thugs than the people who are complaining about them.”

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