While a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in the 1930s, Elizabeth Catlett first encountered African sculptural art and the contemporary work of Mexican muralists. These two art traditions inform most of Catlett's oeuvre. Her sculpted figures have the same voluminous, rounded forms of the people portrayed in the murals of Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera. At the same time, the faces of Catlett's sculpted figures have an owl-like, lunar quality that seems to be derived from African mask design. This stylized facial quality can also be observed in some of Catlett's graphic work, especially in her lithographs. In her linocuts, on the other hand, the faces and bodies of figures are rendered in a more realistic manner; these linocuts are stylistically related to the work of printmakers at the Taller de Gráfica Popular in Mexico City, where Catlett studied from 1946 to 1947 She combined ...
Freida High (Wasikhongo Tesfagiorgis)
I don’t have anything against men but, since I am a woman, I know more about women and I know how they feel. Many artists are always doing men. I think that somebody ought to do women. Artists do work with women, with the beauty of their bodies and the refinement of middle-class women, but I think there is a need to express something about the working-class Black woman and that’s what I do.
(Gladstone, p. 33)
As a reputed sculptor and printmaker whose career began in the 1940s, Elizabeth Catlett is a major figure in modern American and Mexican art. Catlett’s work embraces the human condition, revealing a deep passion for dignifying humanity, especially working-class women and, in particular, African American and Mexican women. Titles of her sculpture suggest this interest: Black Woman Speaks (1970), Mother and Child (1940, 1993), Mujer (1964 ...