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Amalia K. Amaki

sculptor, ceramicist, and educator, was one of America's most prolific and respected three‐dimensional artists in the mid‐twentieth century. Born in Washington, North Carolina, to Elizabeth Davis and Thomas Miggett, he lived primarily with his father until the fall of 1926 when he relocated to Harlem and began living with his mother and her husband, George Artis. In New York he assumed the surname of his stepfather. He attended Haaren High School and went on to study sculpture and pottery at the Augusta Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in the early 1930s, joining the ranks of Jacob Armstead Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and other notable artists whose initial studies included instruction under Savage. Artis was also a contemporary of his fellow sculptors Selma Hortense Burke and Richmond Barthé the latter the most exhibited and honored three dimensional artist associated with ...

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Mary Krane Derr

anthropologist, educator, author, and wood sculptor, was born in Orange, New Jersey, to Stanley and Mabel Harper Gwaltney and into a thriving, extended family environment that also included his brother, sister, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Gwaltney became blind by the age of two months. His mother taught him the alphabet and the names of animals with homemade cardboard shapes, encouraged him to play the piano, and gave him pieces of wood to carve as he saw fit. Throughout his life, Gwaltney carved “ritually inspired” wood sculptures, taking as his role model his great uncle Julius in Virginia. This relative was known locally for his ritual wood carving in “the tradition of the Old Time Religion … the translation into wood sculpture … of that Core Black theology … a largely undocumented and clandestine art” (Freeman, p. 70). Concerned about John's need for formal education, Mabel Gwaltney ...

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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 ...

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Lisa E. Rivo

artist and teacher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the second of two children of Carolyn Dorinda Adams, a beautician, and Thomas Vreeland Jones, a building superintendent. Jones's father became a lawyer at age forty, and she credited him with inspiring her by example: “Much of my drive surely comes from my father—wanting to be someone, to have an ambition” (Benjamin, 4). While majoring in art at the High School of Practical Arts, Jones spent afternoons in a drawing program at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. On weekends she apprenticed with Grace Ripley, a prominent designer of theatrical masks and costumes. From 1923 to 1927 she studied design at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and became one of the school s first African American graduates Upon graduation Jones who had earned a teaching certificate from the Boston Normal Art School received a one ...

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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 ...

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Lisa D. Freiman

artist and educator, was born Betye Irene Brown in Pasadena, California, to Beatrice (maiden name unknown), a seamstress who enjoyed quilting, and Jefferson Brown, a salesman who liked to sketch and write. Jefferson Brown died from kidney problems when Saar was six years old, and Betye and her brother and sister lived with her mother's great-aunt and great-uncle until her mother remarried a man named Emmett six years later. After the second marriage, Beatrice had two more children, a boy and a girl. Saar spent summers with her grandmother in Watts, where she saw Simon Rodia'sWatts Towers, a vernacular example of assemblage consisting of eight tall conical spirals. Built from steel rods, covered in concrete, and encrusted with found objects like bottle caps, glass, broken tiles, and shells, the Watts Towers seemed like “fairy-tale castles” (Isenberg, State of the Arts 23 to Saar and ...

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

Lisa E. Rivo

artist and educator, was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the oldest of three children of Frederick W. Wells, a Baptist minister, and Hortensia Ruth (Lesesne) Wells, a kindergarten teacher. The couple met while both were students at Wilberforce College in Ohio. When James was one year old, the family moved to the working-class town of Palatka, Florida, where Frederick Wells became pastor of the Mount Tabor Baptist Church. After Reverend Wells died, around 1912, Hortensia Wells opened a day-care center and a five-and-dime store, and James helped support his mother and two siblings by doing odd jobs. Wells's artistic skills were encouraged by his mother, and in 1914 he received a scholarship to the Florida Normal and Industrial Institute a segregated Baptist high school in Jacksonville As a teenager he won several awards for drawing and woodworking at the Florida State Fair Wells deferred admission to Lincoln University ...