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Aaron Myers

Lois Mailou Jones was born in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of four, she began to copy paintings in the homes of wealthy white people for whom her mother, a beautician and hat maker, worked. Her formal education began in her high school years, when she attended vocational drawing classes in the evenings and on weekends at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She then studied textile design at the Boston Designers Art School before beginning a four-year program in School of the Museum of Fine Arts, from which she was graduated in 1927 with honors in design.

Because she was black, Jones was denied a graduate assistantship and explored what appeared to be her only other option, teaching art at a black school. In 1928 she established an art department at Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia North Carolina At that time art departments at southern black schools ...

Article

Tritobia Hayes Benjamin

An active and acclaimed painter for more than six decades, Lois Mailou Jones enjoyed two impressive careers, one as a professor of art and the other as an artist. Her teaching gave her financial security and served as an inspiration and a challenge.

Lois Jones was born in Boston to Caroline Dorinda Adams and Thomas Vreeland Jones. Her father was superintendent of a large office building and attended night classes at Suffolk Law School, where he received his law degree in 1915 at the age of forty. “I think that much of my drive surely comes from my father,” Jones once said, “wanting to be someone, having an ambition.” Her mother was a beautician and Jones’s first mentor. She filled the Jones home with color and freshly cut flowers, instilling in her daughter a love of beauty.

With the assistance of four annual tuition scholarships Jones earned a diploma ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

painter. The African American painter and art educator Lois Mailou Jones became interested in depicting the African heritage during the Harlem Renaissance, when she was greatly influenced by the painter Aaron Douglas. Jones's artistic career spanned more than seventy years, during which time she furthered the cause of African American visual art and addressed issues of prejudice toward both African Americans and women.

Jones was strongly encouraged by her parents to pursue her talents in the visual arts. She grew up in Boston, graduated from the High School of Practical Arts, and then studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where she won four successive scholarships and received a diploma in design in 1927 She spent a summer studying art at Harvard University and then took a position to create an art program at the Palmer Memorial Institute in North Carolina a college ...

Article

Elizabeth Way

fashion designer, was born in Clayton, Alabama, to Jack Lowe and Janey Cole Lowe. Little is known of Jack Lowe, however Janey Lowe and her mother, Georgia Cole, were talented dressmakers. The family moved to Montgomery, Alabama, when Ann was a young child, and her mother and grandmother ran a successful business, designing gowns for the wealthy white women of the city. They taught Ann their skills, and by the age of five she could recreate flowers from the garden with their fabric scraps. Though many women could sew in the early twentieth century, Lowe learned advanced dressmaking techniques that equipped her to create couture-quality gowns, as well as to own and operate her own business, a rare achievement for a black woman at the time.

In December 1914 Janey Lowe died leaving the sixteen year old Ann to finish four gowns ordered by the first lady of ...

Article

Lonnie Graham

artist. Born Betye Irene Brown in Los Angeles, California, Betye Saar is a renowned assemblage artist and the mother of three daughters—Lezley, Alison, and Tracye Saar—two of whom, Lezley and Alison, are also well-known artists.

Betye Saar earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1949. She did graduate work at California State University at Long Beach from 1958 to 1962. Later in 1962 she returned to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California to specialize in printmaking; she also continued her studies at California State University at Northridge that year. In 1970 she entered the Pasadena School of Fine Arts to study film.

While residing in Pasadena during the 1950s Betye Brown took a turn from her professional life as a social worker and became active in her early artistic career as ...

Article

Earnestine Jenkins

Betye Saar’s multidimensional work destroys the distinctions between the traditional art forms of painting, sculpture, and printmaking. She has participated in group and solo exhibitions throughout the country, and her work is in major collections in museums across the United States.

Betye Saar was born in Los Angeles. As a child she often visited her relatives in nearby Watts, where she actually observed the construction of Watts Towers (1921-1954) by the self-taught artist Simon Rodia. Saar credits the memory of the construction of the towering spirals (from bottle caps, glass, tiles, cement, and steel) with her lifelong interest in putting together or assembling creative works using different art techniques, and from castoff, found materials. Saar graduated with a degree in design from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1949 and pursued graduate work at California State University Long Beach in art education and printmaking ...

Article

Robert Fay

Born Betye Brown in Los Angeles, California, Betye Saar (pronounced Say-er) is the daughter of Jefferson and Beatrice Brown. She married artist Richard Saar shortly after earning a B.A. degree in design from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1949. Saar pursued graduate studies at California State University at Long Beach, the University of Southern California, and California State University at Northridge. She has taught at UCLA and at the Parsons-Otis Institute.

Although Saar began as a printmaker and graphic designer, she later made a transition to three-dimensional work. The work that marked this turning point was Black Girl's Window (1969 in which Saar placed a print of an African American girl into a segmented window frame with existing objects She gradually replaced prints in her assemblages with existing objects She has increased the scale of her work to include room sized ...

Article

Dorothy B. Porter

Henry Proctor Slaughter was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the son of Sarah Jane Smith and Charles Henry Slaughter. When he was six years old his father died, leaving his mother with two boys and a girl. He sold newspapers to help support his mother, and as he worked his way through school he became the main support of his family. After graduating as salutatorian from Central High School, he served his apprenticeship as a printer on the Louisville Champion. There he became associate editor with Horace Morris, who in 1894 was deputy grand master of the Prince Hall Masons of Kentucky. Slaughter also began to write feature articles for local daily newspapers.

By 1893 Slaughter was foreman of Champion Publishing Company, and in 1894 he became associate editor of the Lexington Standard. Shortly afterward, as manager of the Standard he was described as making ...

Article

costume and fashion designer, was born Zelda Barbour in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. She was the eldest of seven children of Blanche Christian Barbour, a homemaker, and James Barbour, a cook on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Zelda received a Catholic school education that included training in music. As was typical for girls growing up in the early twentieth century, she learned to sew as a child by making doll clothes. She refined her technique observing her grandmother's skilled dressmaking and recalled in a 1994 interview (Gonzalez, 1994) that at a young age she made a dress for her grandmother that so pleased the older woman that she was buried in it.

During her long career Zelda Valdes was known by various names including Zelda Valdes Zelda Wynn Valdes and Zelda Wynn Her career in fashion began when she moved to White Plains New York as a teenager where she worked in ...