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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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Mark G. Emerson

As the second son and namesake of his father, Frederick Douglass Jr. was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He attended public schools in Rochester, New York, where he also helped his brothers, Lewis and Charles, to aid runaway slaves who were escaping to Canada on the Underground Railroad. While he did not serve in the Civil War as his brothers did, Frederick acted as a recruiting agent for the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Infantry regiments, as did his father. Following the war, Frederick attempted to enter the typographical workers' union. When that plan failed, he went with his brother Lewis in 1866 to Colorado, where Henry O. Wagoner, a longtime family friend, taught him the trade of typography. While he was in Colorado, Frederick worked with his brother Lewis in the printing office of the Red, White, and Blue Mining Company. In the fall of 1868 Frederick returned ...

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Nicholas J. Bridger

Yoruba wood sculptor, was born in 1924 in Ila-Orangun, now in Osun State, Nigeria. He was the fifth-generation son of a noted traditional wood carver, Akobi Ogun Fakeye. The elder Fakeye had also worked as a babalawo, a traditional Ifa diviner-priest. He acquired the name Lamidi, an abbreviated form of Abdul Hameed, when he converted to Islam as a teenager. Tellingly, his given name, Olonade, translates as “the carver has arrived.” His specific birth year is given by Father Kevin Carroll as “about 1925,” although his immediate family preferred the year 1924.

By 1945 both his parents had died leaving him without direct parental support although they had secured his early education in the local colonial schools he later completed high school on his own Not having had a carving apprenticeship as a youth Lamidi was later forced to teach himself the rudiments of wood sculpture ...

Article

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

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 ...

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

Makeba G. Dixon-Hill

painter and poet, was an enslaved servant for the Reverend John Moorhead, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife, Sarah Moorhead, in Boston, Massachusetts. Limited information is available about Scipio Moorhead's place of birth or parents, but historically a large majority of the slaves in Massachusetts came from the West Indies or the Western coast of Africa.

As slavery in the United States became inextricably linked to the nation s economy society government and identity race assumed a larger role in becoming a determining factor regarding occupational opportunities In terms of the fine arts race determined who could be trained There were few schools in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries where blacks could receive specialized training or venues that would exhibit their work The alternatives for many artists were at the hands of fellow slaves freed blacks working as artisans or through their owners families who provided knowledge ...

Article

Kathleen Thompson

Quilts and the act of quilt making have played important roles in the history of African America. Rife with symbolism, quilts represent comfort, resistance, self-expression, poverty, and a dozen other aspects of the lives of black Americans. Most quilters are not known outside their own circle of friends and family, but there is one woman who stood out. Her quilts, startling in their quality and originality, and having caught the world’s attention, were displayed in the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where the name of their creator, Harriet Powers, is preserved.

Powers was born a slave in Georgia. Her maiden name is unknown, as are the circumstances of her birth and childhood. She was married to Armstead Powers and had three children, two of whom were born in slavery; the third was born in 1866 just after the end of the Civil War ...

Article

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

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 ...