Category: Famous Women in Art

South of Pico by Kellie Jones

In South of Pico Kellie Jones explores how the artists in Los Angeles's black communities during the 1960s and 1970s created a vibrant, productive, and engaged activist arts scene in the face of structural racism. Emphasizing the importance of African American migration, as well as L.A.'s housing and employment politics, Jones shows how the work of black Angeleno artists such as Betye Saar, Charles White, Noah Purifoy, and Senga Nengudi spoke to the dislocation of migration, L.A.'s urban renewal, and restrictions on black mobility.

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“Glory” inspires Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project

Elizabeth Catlett's "Glory" inspires music. The sculptures of the late African-American artist and civil rights activist Elizabeth Catlett are the inspiration for a new jazz composition. Rufus Reid, a bass musician who's been playing jazz for half a century, uses Catlett's artwork to explore the intersection between music and the visual arts. In his new project, called "Quiet Pride," Reid tries to convey Catlett's sculptures in sound. [1]

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“Madonna” by Elizabeth Catlett

From an early age I've always been fascinated by the Madonna and child imagery. "Madonna, in Christian art, depiction of the Virgin Mary; the term is usually restricted to those representations that are devotional rather than narrative and that show her in a nonhistorical context and emphasize later doctrinal or sentimental significance. The Madonna is accompanied most often by the infant Christ, [but she can be depicted alone.]" [1]

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Marilyn Nance – Artist & Photojournalist

Marilyn Nance is a photojournalist who goes her own way. She wants to tell the truth, particularly about her own community whom she calls ordinary working class Black folks. She follows her instincts, leading her down paths beyond still photography. Marilyn noted in a lecture at the Library of Congress, ". . . the commercial media often has no interest in showing the images that I feel need to be shown."1

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Betye Saar – Artist & Educator

A pioneer of second-wave feminist and post­war black nationalist aesthetics—whose lasting influence was secured by her iconic reclamation of the Aunt Jemima figure in works such as The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972)—Betye Saar began her career in design before transitioning to assemblage and installation. [4]

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Harriet Powers – Folk Artist

Harriet Powers used traditional techniques in her quilts to record local legends, Bible stories and astronomical events on her quilts. One of the panels on Powers quilts illustrate the “dark day” of May 19, 1780 (which is now known as dense smoke over North America caused by Canadian wildfires) and the November 13, 1833, as the “night of falling stars” that convinced many terrified Americans that Judgment Day had come, but was later identified as the Leonid meteor storm. Two of her quilts are on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC; Bible Quilt of 1886 and Pictorial Quilt of 1898.[2]

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Augusta Savage – Sculptor

In the 1920s Augusta Savage received commissions to create portrait busts of W.E.B. Du Bois and black nationalist Marcus Garvey; both pieces were hailed for their power and dynamism. On the strength of these works and especially the poignant Gamin (1929)—a portrait bust of a streetwise boy and one of Savage’s few extant pieces—she received a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship that enabled her finally to study in Paris in 1929–31.**

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Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller – Sculptor

Created at the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance, Fuller's sculpture "Ethiopia" is widely considered the first Pan-African American work of art. Fuller  studied with Raphaël Collin and was mentored by painter Henry Ossawa Tanner. Her work symbolized a new black identity that was emerging through the Renaissance and represented a pridefulness in African and black heritage and identity

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Artist Loïs Mailou Jones

Loïs Mailou Jones's work was abstract and hard-edged and her impressionist techniques gave way to a richly patterned and brilliantly colored style. She produced work that echoed her pride in her African roots and American ancestry. **** In a career spanning more than 70 years, Loïs Mailou Jones overcame racial and gender prejudices to become a successful and influential painter, designer, and educator.*

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Elizabeth Catlett – Artist & Advocate for Social Change

In a career spanning more than 70 years, Elizabeth Catlett has created sculptures that celebrate the heroic strength and endurance of African-American and Mexican working-class women. With simple, clear shapes she evokes both the physical and spiritual essence of her subjects. Her hardy laborers and nurturing mothers radiate both power and a timeless dignity and calm. Whether working in wood, stone, bronze, or clay, Catlett reveals an extraordinary technical virtuosity, a natural ability to meld her curving female forms with the grain, whorls, color, or luster of her chosen medium. The beauty of her subjects is matched by the beauty she reveals in her sculptural materials.**

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Dr. Leslie King-Hammond: Artist, Art Historian and Curator

“I always made sure that all those people who thought they weren’t part of the opportunity to participate in the arts could find a way to become part of that experience,” said Leslie King Hammond, PhD, graduate dean emerita and founding director of the Center for Race and Culture at MICA. Her words are realized with the creation of the Leslie King Hammond Graduate Award. *

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Dr. Kellie Jones – Curator & Art Historian

In 2011, Dr. Kellie Jones and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles curated an exhibition that chronicled the historic art scene in Los Angeles between 1960-1980s. The exhibition Now Dig This! was presented as part of Pacific Standard Time, a collaboration of more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California, coming together to tell the story of the birth of the Los Angeles art scene and how it became a new force in the art world. Read more here.

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