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Nicholas J. Bridger

Yoruba wood sculptor, was born in 1910 in Osi-Ilorin, now in Kwara State, Nigeria. He was the son of Areogun of Osi-Ilorin (c. 1880–1954), a significant master woodcarver of the premodern tradition of the northeast area of Yorubaland. He acquired the name George when baptized Catholic as a child, although his father remained a practitioner of the local Yoruba religion. His name is referred to in recent sources as George Bamidele Arowoogun, the patronymic added as a surname. His close collaborator and patron for four decades, Father Kevin Carroll (1920–1993), always referred to him simply as “Bandele.”

Growing up in a successful carver s household Bandele became apprenticed in his teens to one of his father s former assistants Oshamuko also from Osi Ilorin one of a group of villages called collectively Opin which was within the Ekiti region Both his familial ancestry and his artistic lineage ...

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Pamela M. Fletcher

painter, was born in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, the son of Hannah Alexander, a native of New Brunswick, and Edward Bannister, from Barbados. While his birth date has generally been given as 1828, recent research has suggested that he was born several years earlier. After the death of his father in 1832, Edward was raised by his mother, whom he later credited with encouraging his artistic aspirations: “The love of art in some form came to me from my mother. … She it was who encouraged and fostered my childhood propensities for drawing and coloring” (Holland, Edward Mitchell Bannister, 17). His mother died in 1844 and Edward and his younger brother William were sent to work for a wealthy local family where he was exposed to classical literature music and painting Edward s interest in art continued and an early biography of the ...

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Theresa Leininger-Miller

sculptor, was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, the son of Richmond Barthé and Marie Clementine Roboteau, a seamstress. His father died when Barthé was one month old. Barthé began drawing as a child and first exhibited his work at the county fair in Mississippi at age twelve. He did not attend high school, but he learned about his African heritage from books borrowed from a local grocer and publications given to him by a wealthy white family that vacationed in Bay St. Louis. This family, which had connections to Africa through ambassadorships, hired Barthé as a butler when he was in his teens; he moved with them to New Orleans. At age eighteen Barthé won first prize for a drawing he sent to the Mississippi County Fair. Lyle Saxon, the literary critic for the New Orleans Times Picayune then attempted to register Barthé in a ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Born to a Haitian father and a first-generation Puerto Rican-American mother, Jean-Michel Basquiat grew up in Brooklyn, New York. As a child he created drawings inspired by Comic Books and television cartoons. His mother, who often took him to local museums, nurtured his early interest in art.

In May 1968 Basquiat was hit by a car. He suffered a broken arm and his spleen had to be removed. While he was hospitalized, his mother gave him a copy of Gray's Anatomy, a book that inspired many of his later works as well as the name of the Gray, the noise band he co-founded in 1979. After his parents separated in 1968, Basquiat and his two sisters lived with their father. At the age of seventeen, Basquiat dropped out of high school and lived, by choice, in the streets and with various friends.

Basquiat s career as an ...

Article

N. Elizabeth Schlatter

painter, was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Gerard Basquiat, an accountant originally from Haiti, and Matilde Andradas, of Puerto Rican descent. A precocious draftsman from childhood, Basquiat received little formal artistic training. The last school he attended was the experimental City-as-School program in Manhattan, where he befriended his fellow artist Al Diaz.

Before quitting school altogether in 1978, Basquiat created SAMO (meaning “same old shit”), which was variously a pseudo-religion, a fictional logo, a nom de plume, and a persona. Basquiat and Diaz spray-painted original aphorisms with a copyright symbol next to the word SAMO on walls and in alleys in lower Manhattan. Their mock epigrams and mottoes included “SAMO as an end to mindwash religion, nowhere politics, and bogus philosophy,” “SAMO saves idiots,” and “plush safe he think, SAMO.” Whereas other graffiti artists such as Fab 5 Freddy, Futura 2000 and ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

painter. Basquiat was born to a Puerto Rican mother, Matilde Basquiat, and a Haitian father, Gérard Jean-Baptiste Basquiat, who was a former Haitian minister of the interior. Basquiat's mother encouraged his interest in all forms of the visual arts. He attended a Catholic high school but dropped out a year before his graduation and moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan. There he lived with various friends and supported himself by selling small, postcard-size art and T-shirts.

When Basquiat was only seventeen he started partnering with his friend Al Diaz in lower Manhattan to graffiti dilapidated buildings and subway trains with images and poems, signing the artwork “SAMO,” which represented “same ole shit.” The graffiti often included cryptic sayings, such as “plush safe he think; SAMO,” “SAMO is an escape clause,” and “SAMO does not cause cancer in laboratory animals.” Within a year this graffiti garnered considerable interest. The Village ...

Article

Fredo Rivera

was a prominent Haitian painter associated with the first generation of “naïve” or modern artists who came to prominence with the founding of the Centre d’art in Port-au-Prince. Born in Jacmel around 1923, little is recorded about the life of Castera prior to his becoming the houseboy of DeWitt Peters—founder and director of the Centre d’Art—in the mid-1940s. His association with Peters and his passion for painting gave Bazile access to the Centre d’art, of which he would become a member in November 1945. Despite a short career, Castera became a prolific painter and is particularly known for religious paintings and portraiture.

The religious paintings of Bazile often broached Christian and Vodou-based topics. In his 1950 painting Petro Ceremony, the artist depicts a popular Vodou ceremony associated with Haiti’s revolutionary roots. Placed indoors in a contemporary setting—a houmfor the painting depicts a female practitioner standing above ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Romare Bearden was inspired by the work of early-twentieth- century European artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Joan Miró, who championed a collage aesthetic. These artists painted or pasted onto the artwork's surface elements from various sources, creating images with stylistic and spatial distortions. The Civil Rights Movement also inspired Bearden, and he assembled a group of African American artists in the early 1960s to create artwork in celebration of the movement. When they rejected his suggestion that collage be the official medium of the group, Bearden began to create collages on his own.

Bearden became famous for his collages of the 1960s. In the works from this period, Bearden combined acrylic and/or oil paints with sources drawn from magazines, newspapers, and photographs to construct images of African American people and their surroundings.

Childhood memories of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Charlotte North Carolina where he was ...

Article

Eleanor F. Wedge

artist, was born Romare Howard Bearden in Charlotte, North Carolina, the son of R. Howard Bearden, a grocer, and Bessye Johnson. When Bearden was about four years old, the family moved to New York, settling in Harlem, where he went to public school and his parents developed a wide network of acquaintances among the Harlem jazz musicians and intellectuals of the day. His father later became an inspector for the New York Board of Health; his mother, a civic leader. Bearden finished high school in Pittsburgh, however, having lived there for a time with his grandmother. In 1932, after two years at Boston University, he transferred to New York University, where he created illustrations for the undergraduate humor magazine and earned a BS degree in Education in 1935. For the next two years he contributed political cartoons to the Baltimore Afro-American Unable to find ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

painter, printmaker, and collage artist. Romare Howard Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 12 September 1911, to Richard Howard and Bessye Bearden. Although he only spent two years in North Carolina, his grandparents conveyed a sense of history and connection to the South, a connection that was reflected in his work throughout his career. Most of his childhood and adult life were spent in New York. He moved to New York in 1914, and then to Harlem in 1920. His mother, Bessye, was elected to the New York City school board in 1922 education was of paramount importance in his family Bearden had an expansive diverse career and is considered one of the finest American artists of the twentieth century He had an interest in political social and cultural issues including the visual arts music and literature He was particularly ...

Article

Fredo Rivera

whose rich and surreal compositions have marked him as among the most prolific of his generation, was born in 1911. Little is known of the artist’s childhood and background, but many accounts note that Benoît worked as a cab driver and chauffeur, a shoemaker, and a decorator of pottery before becoming a full-time painter. Working as the chauffeur of Dewitt Peters—director of Haiti’s Centre d’Art—in 1944, Benoît became a painter associated with the Centre early in its founding. He would marry Hermithe, the daughter of artist Hector Hyppolite, establishing himself in Port-au-Prince as a prolific painter of everyday Haitian life as well as Haitian religion.

His early 1946 painting Landscape displays the means by which Benoît created dynamic landscapes that incorporate figures throughout the composition. In 1951 Benoît was commissioned to paint the nativity scene opening the apse mural of the Cathedral Ste Trinité in Port au ...

Article

Fredo Rivera

whose diverse body of work made him among the most prominent of his generation, was born on 29 January 1929 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to Lexile Bigot, a peasant from Anse-à-Veau, and Talide Evrard of Pétionville. The artist was raised in the Portail Léogane suburb, which included the capital city’s red light district. Bigaud excelled in public school as an expert drawer and artist. He was discovered by famed Haitian painter Hector Hyppolite and became his apprentice at the tender age of 15. At 17, Bigaud was admitted as a member of the Centre d’Art, Haiti’s premier art institution. He became one of its youngest and most prolific artists by exploring themes regarding the construction of Haitian identity with painterly expertise.

By the age of 20 Bigaud had received a commission to complete a mural for one of the side interior walls of the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral of Ste Trinité in ...

Article

Tritobia Hayes Benjamin

One of the chores assigned to the Burke children every Saturday was to whitewash the fireplaces with a wash made of local clay. Selma Hortense Burke discovered right away that this clay could be molded into delightful shapes. Her varied career as a teacher, arts administrator, model, and nurse was one of distinction and achievement, but it is her work as a sculptor that is the most memorable. Working with a variety of woods, marbles, and stones, Burke infused her figures with expressiveness, heroism, and power. She focused on the human figure, from the earliest clay figurines she created as a young artist to a statue she completed in the late 1970s of Martin Luther King Jr.

Article

Joyce Youmans

a Nigerian sculptor, was born in Buguma, Nigeria, the principal settlement of the Kalabari people in the eastern Niger Delta region. She moved to England as a teenager, where she was raised by her brother-in-law, the anthropologist Robin Horton. From 1979 to 1980 she attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. She then returned to England and enrolled at the Central School of Art and Design in London where she earned a bachelor’s degree (with honors) in 1983. While an undergraduate, she received the Amy Sadur Friedlander Prize (1981) and the Saatchi & Saatchi Award (1982). In 1983 Camp was awarded the Princess of Wales Memorial Scholarship and the coveted Henry Moore Bursary at the Royal College of Art in London. She graduated from the Royal College in 1986 with a master’s degree in sculpture.

Camp received additional education in Nigeria where ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

sculptor, printmaker, and teacher, was born Alice Elizabeth Catlett to Mary Carson, a truant officer, and John Catlett, a math teacher and amateur musician who died shortly before Elizabeth's birth. Elizabeth and her two older siblings were raised by their mother and paternal grandmother in a middle-class neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Encouraged by her mother and her teachers at Dunbar High School to pursue a career as an artist, she entered Howard University in 1931, where she studied with the African American artists James Lesesne Wells, Loïs Mailou Jones, and James A. Porter. After graduating cum laude with a BS in Art in 1935, Catlett taught art in the Durham, North Carolina, public schools before beginning graduate training at the University of Iowa in 1938 Under the tutelage of the artist Grant Wood Catlett switched her concentration from painting to sculpture and ...

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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 ...

Article

Therese Duzinkiewicz Baker

prima ballerina, modern dancer, choreographer, teacher, and painter, was born Janet Fay Collins in New Orleans, the daughter of Ernest Lee Collins, a tailor, and Alma de Lavallade (the noted dancer Carmen de Lavallade was a first cousin on this side of the family), a seamstress. At the age of four Collins moved to Los Angeles with her family, which included three sisters and one brother. In Los Angeles, Collins had trouble being accepted into “whites-only” dance studios, so she worked with private tutors. Her first formal ballet lessons were at a Catholic community center at the age of ten.

When she was fifteen Collins auditioned for the prestigious Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo led by the legendary Leonide Massine Collins was accepted but only on the condition that she stay in the corps de ballet and that she paint her face white to blend in with the other ...

Article

Lawrie Balfour

Beauford Delaney was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. According to his younger brother, painter Joseph Delaney, Delaney was preoccupied with art even as a young child. He received his first formal art training from Lloyd Branson, a white artist living in Knoxville. Branson encouraged him to move to Boston, Massachusetts in 1924. There he studied painting at the Massachusetts Normal School, the South Boston School of Art, and the Copley Society.

In 1929 Delaney moved to New York, where he held a variety of jobs while he established himself as a painter. Twelve of his portraits were displayed in a 1930 group show at the Whitney Studio Galleries later the Whitney Museum of American Art In exchange for working at the Whitney as a guard telephone operator and gallery attendant Delaney received studio space and a place to live He had his first one man ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Aaron Douglas was born in Topeka, Kansas. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, he taught art at Lincoln High School in Topeka from 1923 to 1925. He moved to Harlem, New York in 1925, the year cultural critic and philosopher Alain Leroy Locke launched the New Negro movement. This movement expressed African Americans' new pride in their African heritage, which manifested itself in literature, song, dance, and most significantly for Douglas, art.

Douglas soon made the acquaintance of German American portrait artist Winold Reiss, who illustrated the March 1925 issue of Survey Graphic an issue devoted to the New Negro movement and edited by Locke Both Reiss and Locke encouraged Douglas to develop his own aesthetic from design motifs in African art Douglas followed their suggestions and sought examples of African art which in the 1920s were beginning to be purchased by American museums ...

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Amy Helene Kirschke

artist and educator, was born in Topeka, Kansas, the son of Aaron Douglas Sr., a baker from Tennessee, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown), an amateur artist from Alabama. Aaron had several brothers and sisters, but he was unique in his family in his singular drive to pursue higher education. He attended segregated elementary schools and then an integrated high school. Topeka had a strong and progressive black community, and Aaron was fortunate to grow up in a city where education and social uplift were stressed through organizations such as the Black Topeka Foundation. He was an avid reader and immersed himself in the great writers, including Dumas, Shakespeare, and Emerson His parents were able to feed and clothe him but could offer him no other help with higher education When he needed money to pursue a college degree he traveled via rail to Detroit where ...