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Huon Wardle

was born in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, on 14 May 1911. He was one of a small number of artistic pioneers whose aim, starting in the 1930s, was to build a distinctively Jamaican tradition in the visual arts. A cartoonist from an early age, Abrahams developed a highly idiosyncratic painterly style and iconography. In his works he employed cubist and expressionist techniques, a prophetic Christian sensibility, and a love of caricature to re-envision everyday Jamaican social life.

Carl Abrahams’s father was a Jewish émigré from Austria-Hungary. An engineer, from 1906 he began to build some of the island s first motorcars In interviews Abrahams indicates that his mother was the privileged but illegitimate child of a white English military officer and a black Jamaican woman Hence by birth Abrahams joined what at that time was referred to as the colored or brown middle class in a colonial ...

Article

Rebecca Martin Nagy

Ethiopian artist, was born in Ankober in Shewa Province, Ethiopia. As a young student Afewerk excelled in mathematics and draftsmanship. Recognizing these talents, the government of Emperor Haile Selassie provided a scholarship in 1947 for Afewerk to study mining engineering in England. Showing great promise as a visual artist, Afewerk soon received the emperor’s permission to transfer to London’s Central School of Arts and Crafts. Subsequently, he attended the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. While studying there, he made several trips to the European continent to see and experience works of art firsthand.

Afewerk’s first solo exhibition of paintings in Addis Ababa, held at Municipality Hall in 1954 was not universally well received In particular an abstract interpretation of the Crucifixion inspired by European modernism now in the National Museum of Ethiopia was the subject of debate and controversy in a city with a centuries old ...

Article

María Elba Torres

was born in the neighborhood of Bélgica in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on 12 January 1928. His parents were José Rodríguez Torres, a lathe operator, and doña Esmeralda Alicea, a homemaker. He studied drawing and painting with don Miguel Pou, a painter who was also from Ponce. Alicea himself tells us that he paid for Master Pou’s classes with picture frames he built himself. In 1936, together with his neighbor William Haddock, who also lived in Bélgica, he made comic strips for the school in Ponce. The neighborhood he grew up in—as well as his mother and the Afroboricua music, dance, and songs present—all instilled in him an Afro-descendant consciousness.

Alicea joined the US Army in 1943 at the age of 14 Among his artistic mentors were the Spanish sculptor Francisco Vázquez Díaz known as Compostela and the graphic artist Lorenzo Homar He worked creating window displays a ...

Article

Robert Fay

Alston was born in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a teenager, he served as the art editor for his high school's annual magazine. Alston earned both his undergraduate and M.A. degrees from Columbia University in New York City. He gained popular recognition for his cover illustrations for the periodicals The New Yorker and Collier's. In the 1930s Alston taught at the Harlem Art Workshop, where he was a proponent of muralism as a black art form, and from 1935 to 1936 Alston directed the Harlem Hospital murals for the Federal Arts Project. In 1950 he became the first African American teacher at the Art Students League in New York. His best-known works are the paintings Family and Walking, which are noted for their figurative content, sculptural form, and brilliant color, and which portray the experiences of African American families in the 1950s and 1960s.

Article

Cynthia Marie Canejo

was born on 22 March 1926 in Terra Roxa in the state of São Paulo. In 1934 he and his family relocated to the city of São Paulo. After studying painting at the Instituto Profissional Masculino (Men’s Professional Institute), São Paulo, from 1939 to 1943, he joined the Grupo dos 19, a group of nineteen artists linked by their interest in new expression, in 1947. In 1950 he continued his studies in printmaking at the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) in Paris.

Returning to Brazil in 1951, Araújo moved to Rio de Janeiro and found a position assisting the renowned Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari (1903–1962). In 1959 he won the first prize for printmaking at the Salão Para Todos (Salon for All) in Rio de Janeiro, and was awarded a trip to China. In 1960 he received a scholarship to study at ...

Article

Myrna Guerrero Villalona

was born in the San Carlos neighborhood of Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, on 16 June 1930, at the beginning of the dictatorship of Rafael L. Trujillo (1930–1961), and three months before the San Zenón hurricane flattened the city (3 September 1930).

Her parents were Porfirio Balcácer and Tomasina Rodríguez a couple with scarce financial resources who valued education as a way out of poverty In addition to Ada they had a son Porfirio Lorenzo Ada grew up between her parents home on Ravelo Street in San Carlos and the home of her maternal grandmother in San Juan de la Maguana The city located about 118 miles from Santo Domingo afforded Ada direct contact with myths and legends from the cultural reservoir of her country s heritage Her grandfather Catedral de los Santos was the overseer on a farm and a devotee ...

Article

Raul Zamudio

was born on 22 December 1960, in Brooklyn, New York. He was of mixed Afro-Caribbean ancestry, as his father, Gerard Basquiat, was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and his mother, Matilde Andrades, was born in Brooklyn of Puerto Rican parentage. Basquiat’s primary and secondary education in Brooklyn included both public and private, and religious and secular, institutions. His primary education was interrupted in 1968 when he was in a car accident, as a result of which his spleen had to be removed. As an adolescent, Basquiat attended Edward R. Murrow High School in his hometown borough, and before graduating he transferred to a Manhattan alternative school for gifted children. Basquiat left this nontraditional high school before graduation, but his father noted that his artistically gifted son was consistently drawing from an early age.

Basquiat s natural talent was nurtured by his parents which entailed trips with his mother to Brooklyn ...

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

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

Carmen Oquendo-Villar

José Bedia was born in Havana, Cuba, where he pursued his formal artistic education at the Academia de Artes Plásticas San Alejandro and at the Instituto Superior de Arte. He left Cuba in 1991 and spent a brief time in Mexico before establishing himself in Miami in 1993. Bedia's work—drawings on paper; oil paintings on canvas; works in ink, acrylic, charcoal, oil crayons; and installations—derives most of its power from Cuba's African heritage, sometimes bringing to mind Kongo cosmograms (geometric designs which carry religious meanings) and Abakuá (Afro-Cuban all-male secret societies) ideographic writing. Texts in Spanish, Yoruba, or Bantu languages accompany many of his pieces. Despite the deep presence of African art Bedia's work, Cuban critic Gerardo Mosquera has labeled it postmodern Kongo art because it does not pretend to be a reenactment of original African art.

Bedia s adherence to local attitudes does not prevent him ...

Article

Jennifer Carolina Gómez Menjívar

was born in Bluefields, Nicaragua, to a working-class family. The youngest of eleven children, she was a self-taught painter who began her career painting free portraits before becoming one of Nicaragua’s most renowned artists. Her paintings depicted the landscapes and people of that country’s Atlantic Coast, a historically marginalized region.

Beer is the only painter from Bluefields to have received national and international attention for her artwork. The city was a major port during the colonial period, when it was the capital of the British Protectorate of the Mosquito Coast. It was incorporated into Nicaragua in 1894, though it remained largely forgotten and ignored until the late twentieth century. Thus its primarily Afro-descendant and Afro-indigenous population remained economically and politically disenfranchised throughout its history. It was in this context that Beer raised four children as a single mother.

Beer began painting during a two year stay in the United ...

Article

Sherry Johnson

was born in San Juan, Trinidad, to parents who had the means to provide the artist with the tools necessary for her to explore a love of drawing. Little is known about her family background and early life. She developed her skills at high school at St. Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, where, recognizing she could “do art,” her teachers encouraged her. In high school she often scored the highest grades in the visual arts—a fact that embarrassed her because, even then, her art did not follow conventional replications of the landscape like the British models she and her fellow students sought to emulate. These were the beginnings of what appeared to be her innate sensibility for abstract modern art.

In the late 1960s Belgrave attended Sir George Williams University now Concordia in Montreal Canada where she earned a B A in the fine arts and literature concurrently obtaining her degree ...

Article

Sandra Y. Govan

Although she never collected her published poetry into a volume nor produced a collection of short stories, Gwendolyn Bennett was recognized as a versatile artist and significant figure in the Harlem Renaissance.

Torn between her ambition to work as a graphic artist and her desire to become a proficient writer using the medium of either poetry or prose, Bennett maintained the profile of an arts activist in New York City's African American arts community for over twenty years. However, the five-year period spanning 1923 to 1928 proved to be the most productive for her as a creative writer. It was within this brief span that James Weldon Johnson recognized Bennett as a lyric poet of some power.

Born in Giddings, Texas, Bennett led a nomadic childhood before her father, Joshua Robbin Bennett finally settled his family into comfortable surroundings in Brooklyn New York Bennett completed her secondary education at ...

Article

Theresa Leininger-Miller

Bennett, Gwendolyn (08 July 1902–30 May 1981), writer and artist, was born in Giddings, Texas, the daughter of Joshua Robin Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on a Native American reservation. In 1906 the family moved to Washington, D.C., where Bennett’s father studied law and her mother worked as a manicurist and hairdresser. Her parents divorced and her mother won custody, but her father kidnapped the seven-year-old Gwendolyn. The two, with her stepmother, lived in hiding in various towns along the East Coast and in Pennsylvania before finally settling in New York.

At Brooklyn s Girls High 1918 1921 Bennett participated in the drama and literary societies the first African American to do so and won first place in an art contest She next attended fine arts classes at Columbia University 1921 and the Pratt Institute from which she graduated in 1924 While she was still an ...

Article

Maud C. Mundava

poet, artist, illustrator, teacher, and journalist. (Some of her works appear under Gwendolyn Bennett Jackson and Gwendolyn Bennett Crosscup.) Bennett was the daughter of Joshua R. Bennett and Mayme F. Abernathy, teachers on a Nevada Native American reservation. She was born in Giddings, Texas, and later lived in Pennsylvania, Florida, and New York. When Bennett's parents divorced, she moved to New York with her stepmother and father. She was married to Alfred Jackson, a physician (1928) and then to Richard Crosscup, a teacher (1941). She had no children.

As an African American poet, artist, illustrator, teacher, and journalist, Bennett contributed significantly to the Harlem Renaissance (an African American artistic movement) and to U.S. history and culture. She attended fine arts classes at Columbia University (1921), at Pratt Institute (1924 and in France ...

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 ...