Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists

By Jontyle Theresa Robinson | Go to book overview

NOTES
1
Gloria Wade-Gayles, "No Crystal Stair, Visions of Race and Sex," in Black Women's Fiction ( New York: Pilgrim Press, 1984), p. 6.
2
Quoted in Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Patricia Bell-Scott, "The Creative Spirit", Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, vol. 4, no. 1 ( Spring 1987): 2.
3
See Steven Loring Jones well-documented and informative article, "A Keen Sense of the Artistic African American Material Culture in 19th Century Philadelphia", The International Review of African American Art, vol. 12, no. 12 ( Summer 1995), pp. 9-10. Jones indicates that there were sixteen schoolteachers in the 1856 statistics in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The scrapbooks, located in the Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University and The Library Company of Philadelphia, yielded the sketches and poems noted. Douglass's colleague, Ada H. Hinton (active 1840s-1900+) also contributed work to these albums. She too combined literary and artistic skill in the albums of young women students. Two works, Untitled Floral Bud, 1840?, watercolor, and Untitled Floral Piece, 1840?, oil and ink, are illustrated. To my knowledge, the illustrations of Douglass and Hinton are published here for the first time.
4
Robert Douglass, Jr. ( 1809-1887) was a painter, printmaker, and photographer. He studied with the leading portrait painter of the day, Thomas Sully of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He spent eighteen months in Haiti, 1837-39, and by 1840, he was in London studying at the National Gallery. When he returned to Philadelphia in early 1841, he scheduled illustrated slide lectures on his travels in Haiti. William Penn Douglass (n.d.) began his career as a sign painter. He was also chairman of the Colored Young Men of Philadelphia.
5
Quoted in Sterling Stuckey, Slave Culture ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 268.
7
Jones, "A Keen Sense of the Artistic", p. 10.
12
Elaine Hedges, "The Nineteenth Century Diarist and Her Quilts", Feminist Studies, vol. 8 ( Summer 1982): 295-97, cited in Crystal A. Britton "Conditions for Black Women Artists: An Overview," in Vivian Schuyler Key, One of Many Voices 1926-1980, exh. cat. ( Brooklyn, NY. The Society for the Preservation of Weeksville and BedfordStuyvesant History, 1990), p. 12.
13
Crystal Britton, "Conditions for Black Women Artists", p. 12.
14
Gladys-Marie Fry, "Harriet Powers: Portrait of a Black Quilter", in Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, vol. 4, no. 1 ( Spring 1987): 11.
18
Ibid., p. 12. According to Fry, Jennie Smith offered to buy the quilt at the 1886 fair, but Powersrefused to sell it for any price. Around 1890, experiencing difficult financial pressures, Powers sent word to Smith that the quilt was now for sale. Smith was herself unable to purchase it in 1890, but in 1891 she reopened negotiations. Her own words are very interesting and shed light on Powers's attachment to this quilt: "Last year I sent her word that I would buy it if she still wanted to dispose of it. She arrived one afternoon in front of my door in an ox-cart with the precious burden in her lap encased in a clean flour sack, which was still enveloped in a crocus sack. She offered it for ten dollars, but I told her I only had five to give. After going out consulting with her husband she returned and said, 'Owin' to de hardness of de times, my old man lows I'd better teck hit.' Not being a new woman she obeyed. After giving me a full description of each scene with great earnestness, she departed but has been back several times to visit the darting offspring of her brain. She was only in a measure consoled for its loss when I promised to save her all my scraps. That black women were expected to defer to their husbands rings loudly in Smith's observation that Powers"Not being a new woman obeyed." Furthermore, her returns to see the quilt indicate that this product was viewed as more than a utilitarian object in the household.
19
Milton W. Brown et al., American Art ( New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1979), p. 278.
20
Britton, "Conditions for Black Women Artists", p. 12.
21
Oberlin College had promoted coeducation since its founding in 1832 and began admitting African Americans in 1835.
22
Lynda Roscoe Hartigan, Sharing Traditions: Five Black Artists in Nineteenth Century America, exh. cat. ( Washington, DC: National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1985), p. 87.
24
Charlotte Streiffer Rubinstein, American Women Sculptors ( Boston: G.K. Hall, 1990), p. 52, and Arna Alexander Bontemps and Jacqueline Fonvielle-Bontemps , "African American Women Artists: An Historical Perspective," Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, vol. 4, no. 1 ( Spring 1987): 17.
25
Theodore J. Stebbins, The Boston Tradition: American Paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts, exh. cat. ( Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1980), p. 1.
26
Rubinstein, American Women Sculptors, p. 52.
27
Juanita Marie Holland, "Reaching Through the Veil: African American Artist Edward Mitchell Bannister," in Edward Mitchell Bannister 1828-1901, exh. cat. ( New York: Kenkeleba House, 1992), p. 22.
28
Rubinstein, American Women Sculptors, pp. 45, 52.
29
Hartigan, Sharing Traditions, p. 89.
30
Rubinstein, American Women Sculptors, p. 25.
31
Henry James, William Wetmore Story and His Friends ( Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1903; reprint, New York: Grove Press, 1957), p. 57.
32
Hartigan, Sharing Traditions, p. 93.
33
Kirsten P. Buick, "The Ideal Works of Edmonia Lewis: Invoking and Inverting Autobiography", American Art, vol. 9, no. 2 ( Summer 1995): 6-7, 9.
34
This work is in the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.
35
Rubinstein, American Women Sculptors, p. 54; Hartigan, Sharing Traditions, p. 94.
36
Long considered lost, the life-size, two-ton statue was identified in a Chicago suburb in 1988. The asp in Cleopatra's hand has been broken off. It is currently in the National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C. See Romare Bearden and Harry Henderson, A History of African American Artists from 1792 to the Present

-78-

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Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Dedication 5
  • Acknowledgments 5
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Foreword 11
  • The Visual Education of Spelman Women 12
  • Notes 13
  • Passages - A Curatorial Viewpoint 15
  • Notes 36
  • Warrior Women: Art as Resistance 39
  • Notes 47
  • Triumphant Determination: the Legacy of African American Women Artists 49
  • Notes 78
  • African American Women Artists - Into the Twenty-First Century 83
  • Notes 93
  • Hagar's Daughters: Social History, Cultural Heritage, and Afro-U.S. Women's Art 95
  • Notes 108
  • Illustrations and Biographies 113
  • Afterword 161
  • Chronology 162
  • Selected Bibliography 165
  • List of Illustrations 172
  • Index 174
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