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Jerry C. Waters

an interdisciplinary artist and musician, was born Terry Roger Adkins in Washington, D.C., the eldest of five children of Robert Hamilton Adkins, a teacher and a musician, and Doris Jackson Adkins, a homemaker and musician. Adkins was raised in Alexandria, Virginia.

The artistic and musical achievements of Terry Adkins are linked to his formative years. Born in the racially segregated South, he attended a predominantly black primary school in Alexandria, Virginia, and graduated in 1971 from Ascension Academy a mostly white Catholic high school Adkins s parents encouraged his artistic talents and academic pursuits because education was valued within the extended Adkins family His father Robert Hamilton Adkins was a chemistry and science teacher at Parker Gray High School a predominantly black school in Alexandria and performed within the community as an organist and vocalist Adkins s grandfather the Reverend Andrew Warren Adkins pastored Alfred Street Baptist ...

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André Willis

William Ellisworth Artis was born February 2, 1914, in Washington, North Carolina, to Elizabeth Davis and Thomas Migget. In 1926 he went to live with his mother and her husband, George Artis, in New York City. Artis's artistic education took him through a number of institutions, including the Art Student's League, Pennsylvania State University, Chadron State College in Nebraska, and Syracuse University. He also studied under Harlem Renaissance sculptor Augusta Savage. Artis won the Metropolitan Scholarship award for creative sculpture in 1933, and the Outstanding Educator of America and Outstanding Afro-American Artist awards in 1970. His sculptures are singular in their treatment of human life and their vitality of form. Later in his career Artis taught at Nebraska State Teacher's College and the Harlem Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).

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Richmond Barthé grew up in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana. His father died at the age of twenty-two, one month after Barthé's birth. In early childhood, Barthé began drawing and painting watercolor scenes. His mother, Marie Clementine Roboteau, raised him alone, fostering his interest in the arts. He received further encouragement from his fellow townspeople and the nuns at his parochial school.

In 1915 Barthé moved to New Orleans, where he painted and worked as a butler. At the age of eighteen he won a local drawing contest. During the nine years that Barthé spent in New Orleans, he tried to enter art school, but his admission was denied because he was black. Critic Lyle Saxon of the Times-Picayune newspaper attempted to wield his influence to allow Barthé into a New Orleans art school, but his efforts failed.

Barthé eventually focused his interest on schools ...

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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 ...

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Maria Stilson

artist. Barthé's stylistic sculptures of the African American captured the human passion and genuine character, culture, and ethnic identity of the race. His sensitivity in his work revealed a glimpse into the life and spirit of the African American during an era of oppression and persecution. Barthé's unique ability to expose the vulnerability of his subjects brought him wide recognition in the art world and the social circles of the early and mid-twentieth century.

Born in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, Barthé grew up on the coastal bay, an area populated by wealthy New Orleans families. His father, Richmond Barthé Sr., died at the age of twenty-two, when Barthé was only a few months old. Barthé's mother, Marie Clementine Robateau Barthé, left a single mother, raised him while working as a seamstress. When Barthé was six she married his godfather, William Franklin a workingman and a cornet ...

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

Aaron Myers

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 ...

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 ...

Article

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

Amy Helene Kirschke

sculptor and printmaker. Catlett was born six months after her father died of tuberculosis. The Washington, D.C., native was the daughter of two educators. Her father was a teacher at Tuskegee Institute and in the Washington, D.C., public schools, and her mother was trained at the Scotia Seminary in North Carolina as a teacher. Upon Elizabeth's father's death, her mother immediately sought a job, eventually working as a truant officer in the Washington, D.C., public school system. Catlett's mother always strongly emphasized education for her three children. The granddaughter of freed slaves, Catlett credited her resolve in sculpture to her family's commitment to education, noting that her profession has traditionally been reserved for white men.

Catlett identified with four underserved groups women blacks Mexicans and poor people She did not see herself as exceptional rather she saw herself as exceptionally fortunate A precocious student she skipped two grades and ...

Article

Australia Tarver

As a visual artist and writer Barbara Dewayne Chase-Riboud (D'ashnash Tosi) blends African worlds with European, Asian, and Muslim worlds. Embracing differences is central to her idea of coupling or combining opposites. Chase-Riboud was born in Philadelphia to parents who encouraged her talents in the arts. With their support, her interest in the visual arts grew. She received a BFA from Temple University (1957). In the same year she was awarded a John Hay Whitney Fellowship to study art in Rome. Returning to the United States, Chase-Riboud completed an MFA at Yale (1960). From 1957 to 1977 Chase-Riboud exhibited widely in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the United States. Although she is not an expatriate, Chase-Riboud lives with her second husband, Sergio Tosi, in Paris and Rome.

Her world travels with her first husband photojournalist Marc Riboud during the 1960s inspired Chase Riboud s ...

Article

Jennifer Jensen Wallach

sculptor, poet, and novelist. Barbara Chase-Riboud was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and received a BFA from Temple University in 1957 and an MFA from Yale University in 1960. In 1957 she received a John Hay Whitney Foundation fellowship, which allowed her to study in Rome and Egypt. In 1961 she married the French photojournalist Marc Riboud and moved to Paris permanently.

Chase-Riboud's sculpture is characterized by bronze shapes combined with silk and wool fabrics, and it exhibits African and Asian influences. Her sculpture is housed among the permanent collections of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Chase-Riboud is a poet and a novelist as well as a sculptor. In 1974 she published her first volume of poetry, From Memphis to Peking, which was edited by Toni Morrison ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

The daughter of Vivian and Charles Chase, Barbara Chase-Riboud was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She won her first art prize at age eight. At age fifteen she won a Seventeen magazine award, and her prizewinning print was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Temple University in Philadelphia in 1957 and spent the next year in Italy and Egypt on a John Hay Whitney Foundation Fellowship. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1960.

In 1961 Chase Riboud married a French photojournalist and she traveled with him throughout Europe Asia and Africa Her drawings and sculpture began to include significant African and Asian influences She was also influenced by struggles for civil rights and freedom in the United States and Africa By the late 1960s ...

Article

Born in Houston, Texas, Melvin Edwards studied painting at the University of Southern California (USC), and began sculpting in 1960. Five years later he received his B.F.A. degree from USC. Edwards first gained critical attention with a series of sculptures entitled Lynch Fragments, which he had begun in 1963. By 1997 the series included more than 150 individual works made from both forged and welded parts of knife sheaths, automotive gears, chains, ball bearings, horseshoes, and other metal. The works, each of which is about the size of a human head and hangs on a wall, explore themes of violence and incorporate both American and African symbolism.

In 1967 Edwards moved from California to New Jersey, and his work began to shift away from the manipulated, unpainted metal. A solo exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1968 included geometric shapes painted ...

Article

Aaron Myers

David Hammons was born in Springfield, Illinois. After growing up in the Midwest, he moved to Los Angeles in 1964 to study art. In the 1960s, the progress of the Civil Rights Movement and the inception of the Black Power Movement encouraged artists of African descent to both produce a more racially conscious art and challenge stereotypes of African Americans. After completing his studies in 1972, Hammons began to create prints of his body using margarine or grease. In 1975 he made Harlem his home and started forging sculptures from materials he collected on the street. He executed these assemblages in public spaces using such found objects as spades, chains, bottle caps, deflated inner tubes, barbecue bones, and African American hair in an effort to explore African American identity.

The spade is a reoccurring motif in Hammons s body prints and sculptures He said I remember being called ...

Article

Jerry C. Waters

artist and musician, was born Lonnie Bradley Holley in Birmingham, Alabama, and was, according to Holley in a personal interview, the seventh child of twenty-seven children born to his mother, Dorothy May Holley Crawford, and to his father, Arthur James Bradley.

Holley s childhood and adolescence were extremely difficult in that he experienced intense poverty physical abuse and homelessness Following his birth Holley s mother placed him with a woman who moved to Ohio Four years later she returned to Birmingham and gave him to another woman known as Big Mama and her husband Big Daddy in exchange for a bottle of bootleg whiskey Holley ran away from them because of continual corporeal punishment he received from Big Daddy As a result of this decision Holley lived with several foster families was incarcerated in the Alabama Industrial School for Boys and Girls in Mount Meigs and spent time ...

Article

Jason Philip Miller

to a father who was a coal miner and a mother who was a seamstress. He was the only son and the second youngest of five children, and following his parents’ divorce when he was eight he attended local schools. An intellectually curious youth, Mosely decided early on that he would pursue an academic track rather than follow his father into the mines, a decision his father, a firm believer in education, supported. After graduation from high school he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he developed an interest in writing, especially journalism. Upon his discharge in 1946, he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh, from which he graduated in 1950 with Bachelor’s degrees in both English and Journalism.

Mosley found making a living as a writer tough going so he found a permanent job at a local post office While holding this job for slightly more than forty ...

Article

The work of sculptor Martin Puryear is known for the combination of traditional handicrafts, such as woodworking and basketry, with basic, geometric forms. Puryear's love of both art and handicraft was evident throughout his childhood in Washington, D.C., where he was fascinated by drawing as well as by the construction of such useful objects as bows, arrows, chairs, canoes, and guitars. Puryear studied biology and art at Catholic University in Washington, graduating with a B.A. degree in 1963. From 1964 to 1966 he served with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, where he taught biology, French, and English while learning traditional carpentry techniques from local craftspeople. After leaving the Peace Corps, he studied printmaking at the Swedish Royal Academy in Stockholm, but his private studies of woodworking there led him to turn from printmaking to the three-dimensional art of wood sculpture. In 1971 Puryear earned his ...

Article

Painter and sculptor Faith Ringgold has spent her artistic career breaking boundaries and opening opportunities for African American creativity, especially that of women. Born in New York City and raised in Harlem, Ringgold earned a bachelor's degree in art and education in 1955 and a master's of fine arts degree in 1959 from The City College of New York. Dissatisfied with the traditional art training she received in New York and later in Europe, Ringgold studied African art, reading the work of Black Arts Movement authors and participating in the Civil Rights Movement. Paintings from this period—including The Flag Is Bleeding (1967), US Postage Stamp Commemorating the Advent of Black Power (1967) and Die (1967)—blend the geometric shapes and flat perspective of African-inspired artistic traditions with powerful political and social protest.

Ringgold has been an outspoken critic of racial and gender prejudice ...

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Michele M. Humphrey

Faith Ringgold is recognized as one of the leading artists of the twenty-first century. Her work appeared in many major museums around the world and resides in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Faith Jones Ringgold was born in Harlem, New York. She was the third child of Willi Posey Jones, a dressmaker and professional fashion designer, and Andrew Louis Jones Sr., a sanitation worker. She was troubled with asthma at an early age and found herself drawn to art as a way to pass the time. Inspired by her mother’s career and determined to pursue her own dream of becoming an artist, she enrolled at the City College of New York in 1948 Her first social barrier presented itself when she learned that women were not allowed to major in art at the ...