Draw happiness from oneself, from a good day’s work, from the light it can bring to the fog which surrounds us. Think…”that was the best time”
Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) was an African-American graphic artist and sculptor. She is best known for her depictions of the African-American experience in the 20th century, which often had the female experience as their focus. Her work is a mixture of abstract and figurative in the Modernist tradition, with influence from African and Mexican art traditions.
Her work was influenced by the Harlem Renaissance movement and the Chicago Black Renaissance in the 1940s and reinforced in the 1960s and 1970s with the influence of the Black Power, Black Arts Movement and feminism. Catlett was more concerned in the social messages of her work than in pure aesthetics. “I have always wanted my art to service my people — to reflect us, to relate to us, to stimulate us, to make us aware of our potential.” She was a feminist and an activist before these movements took shape, pursuing a career in art despite segregation and the lack of female role models. “I don’t think art can change things,” Catlett said “I think writing can do more. But art can prepare people for change, it can be educational and persuasive in people’s thinking.”
Her printwork was mostly woodcuts and linocuts produced 1947-1966 with theTaller de Gráfica Popular, a famous workshop in Mexico City dedicated to graphics arts promoting leftist political causes, social issues and education. She and other artists created a series of linoleum cuts on prominent black figures as well as posters, leaflets, illustrations for textbooks and materials to promote literacy in Mexico. Her linocut series “The Black Woman Speaks,” is among the first graphic series in Western art to depict the image of the American black woman as a heroic and complex human being. Her posters of Harriet Tubman, Angela Davis, Malcolm X and other figures were widely distributed.
See also many other videos of interviews about her political role and life.
Margaret Taylor-Burroughs (1915 – 2010), also known as Margaret Taylor Goss, Margaret Taylor Goss Burroughs or Margaret T G Burroughs; was an African-American artist and writer, with her efforts directed toward the exploration of the Black experience and to children, especially to their appreciation of their cultural identity and to their introduction and growing awareness of art.
Many of here linocuts have become iconic images of the American Civil Rights movement. In many of Burroughs’ pieces, she depicts people with half black and half white faces.
In The Faces of My People Burroughs carved five people with different skin tones staring at the viewer. One of the women is all black, three of the people are half black and half white and one is mostly white. While Burroughs is attempting to blend together the black and white communities, she also shows the barriers that stop the communities from uniting. None of the people in The Faces of My People are looking at each other, and this implies a sense of disconnect among them.On another level, The Faces of My People deals with diversity. An article from the Collector magazine website describes Burroughs’ attempts to unify in the picture. The article says, “Burroughs sees her art as a catalyst for bringing people together. This tableau of diverse individuals illustrates her commitment to mutual respect and understanding”.
My People: there are four different faces – each of which is half white and half black. The head on the far left is tilted to the side and close to the head next to it. It seems as both heads are coming out of the same body – taking the idea of split personalities to the extreme. The women are all very close together, suggesting that they relate to each other. My People focuses on a common conflict that all the women in the picture face.
Birthday Party: here both black and white children are seen celebrating. The black and white children are not isolated from each other; instead they are intermixed and mingling around the table together waiting for birthday cake. An article published by The Art Institute of Chicago described Burroughs’ Birthday Party and said, “Through her career, as both a visual artist and a writer, she has often chosen themes concerning family, community, and history. ‘Art is communication,’ she has said. ‘I wish my art to speak not only for my people – but for all humanity.’ This aim is achieved in Birthday Party, in which both black and white children dance, while mothers cut cake in a quintessential image of neighbors and family enjoying a special day together”.
She also helped to establish many art establishments and opportunities for artists promoting civil rights.
She helped found the South Side Community Arts Center in 1939 to serve as a social center, gallery, and studio to showcase African American artists.
She is credited with the founding of Chicago’s Lake Meadows Art Fair in the early 1950s. At its inception there were very limited venues and galleries for African American Artists to exhibit and sell their artwork, so she launched the Fair, which rapidly grew in popularity and became one of the most anticipated exhibitions for artists, collectors and others throughout the greater Chicago area. After a brief hiatus beginning in the early 1980s, it was resurrected by Helen Y. West in 2005 – and another of Margaret Burroughs’ legacies lives on.
Margaret and her husband Charles co-founded what is now called the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago in 1961. The institution was originally known as the Ebony Museum of Negro History and Art and made its debut in the living room of their house at 3806 S. Michigan Avenue in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s south side, and Taylor-Burroughs served as its executive director for the first ten years of its existence. She was proud of the institution’s grass-roots beginnings: “we’re the only one that grew out of the indigenous Black community. We weren’t started by anybody downtown; we were started by ordinary folks.”Burroughs served as Executive Director until 1984 and was then named Director Emeritus, remaining active in the museum’s operations and fundraising efforts.
See also the many You Tube videos on her legacy to the Civil Rights movement, interviews with her before her death and reading her poetry.
Sybil Andrews (19 April 1898 – 21 December 1992) was an English printmaker best known for her modernist linocuts portraying the energy and excitement of urban life. Together with her informal partner Cyril Power she helped in the establishment and became the first secretary (1925–1928) of the The Grosvenor School of Modern Art.
Her linocuts are a key source of inspiration for my linocuts in Project 5.1: Grand Arcade
List of works
- Fleece, 1988, colour linoleum cut.
- Coffee Bar, 1952, colour linoleum cut.
- Mowers, 1937, colour linoleum cut.
- Storm, 1935, colour linoleum cut.
- Racing, 1934, colour linoleum cut.
- Speedway 1934, colour linoleum cut.
- Tillers of the soil, 1934, colour linoleum cut.
- Bringing in the boat, 1933, colour linoleum cut.
- Mother and Son, 1932, colour linoleum cut.
For more see: Google images
Clifford S Ackley ed British Prints from the Machine Age: Rhythms of Modern Life 1914-1947 Thames and Hudson 2008