Enduring in Vision & Linked in Tradition: Selected Works by Four Generations of African American Women Artists

This intimate yet captivating exhibition presents works by 13 highly accomplished artists, who represent four generations of African American women in the art world from the first half of the 20th century to the present. 

 


Artists in the exhibition include:  

Samella Lewis 

Betye Saar 

Loîs Manilou Jones 

Elizabeth Catlettqq2 

Gwendolyn Knight 

Mary Lovelace O’Neil 

Alison Saar 

Lezley Saar 

Nanette Carter 

Eve Sandler 

Kenturah Davis 

Lisa C Soto 

Samella Lewis

Massai, 2005

Audio Transcipt

Samella Lewis is both an artist and art historian working within American art. Lewis was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1969, Lewis started Contemporary Crafts; which is the first African-American owned art publishing house. Lewis is still living and working out of Los Angeles. She once stated on KCET that her inspirations an an artist and art historian comes from the need to bring greater attention to the accomplishments of African-American artists.

Samella Lewis is both an artist and art historian working within American art; she was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1969, Lewis started Contemporary Crafts; which is the first African-American owned art publishing house. Lewis is still living and working out of Los Angeles today.

Field, 1968, Linocut 

Betye Saar

Slipping into Darkness, 1981 

Audio Transcript

Betye Saar is a Los Angeles native artist challenging the negative ideas of African Americans. Saar’s work contains strong autobiographical and political elements. Betye Saar has raised three daughters, two of which are in this exhibition as well. As a passionate feminist, Saar continues to work within her Los Angeles community. Her interest in assemblage was inspired by an 1867 exhibition by Joseph Cornell; though she also sites the influence of Simon Rodia's Watts Towers which she witnessed being built in her childhood. Her interest in in assemblage is very apparent in Slipping into Darkness from 1981; she continues to be interested in assemblage using mixed media in We Was Mostly 'Bout Survival from 2017.

Betye Saar is a Los Angeles native artist challenging the negative ideas of African Americans; her work contains strong autobiographical and political elements. 

Betye Saar has three daughters, two of which are in this exhibition as well. As a passionate feminist, Saar continues to work within her Los Angeles community.  

 

We Was Mostly ‘Bout Survival, 2017, Mixed media assemblage

Alison Saar

Skillet, 2001

Audio Transcript

Alison Saar credits her mother, Betye Saar, to exposing her to metaphysical and spiritual traditions. Her father instilled in her curiosity and interest in other cultures. {The} National Museum of Women and the Arts stated, “Saar’s urban style has Southwest Native American, and Mexican influences. Tree Souls from 1994 is another work done by Alison Saar. Here you can see are two found sculpted wood figures, one male and one female. Their feet are roots dug into the soil. Here you can see how she uses gender, heritage, and history throughout her pieces. 

Alison Saar credits her mother, Betye Saar, to exposing her to metaphysical and spiritual traditions. Her father instilled in her curiosity and interest in other cultures – from Chinese frescos and Egyptian mummies, to Pre-Columbian and African art. Saar’s sculptures, installations, and prints incorporate various found objects, becoming powerful totems exploring issues of gender, race, heritage and history. 

Treesouls, 1994, Found sculpted wood with copper cladding 

Lezley Saar

Audio Transcript

Lezley Saar, Los Angeles artist, is a daughter of Betye Saar’s. Lezley Saar is known for her old books, hollowed out and refilled with small narrative paintings. They all fixated on dualities such as black/white, male/female, sane/insane, natural/mechanical, and material/spiritual. Saar posing questions by highlighting ironies. Saar once stated, and I quote, "I'm influenced by 19th century illustrations of animals and nature". The work includes references to gothic literature, anatomy, biology, tattoos, cartoons, and art nouveau. Another work By Lezley Saar, Cell Realization from 2014 which is acrylic and digital photos of fabric board, shows the biology and the anatomy in which Saar is interested in.

Lezley Saar, Los Angeles artist, is another daughter of Betye Saar’s. Lezley Saar is known for her old books, hollowed out and refilled with small narrative paintings. They all fixated on dualities such as black/white, male/female, sane/insane, natural/mechanical, and material/spiritual. Saar posing questions by highlighting ironies. 

Cell Realization, 2014, Acrylic and digital photos on fabric on board

Nanette Carter

Window View #6, 1995

Audio Transcript

Nanette Carter, born in Colombus Ohio, is known for her oil on mylar technique. She is frequently referred to as 'the visual storyteller'. After receiving her Masters of Fine Arts of Pratt Institute on Brooklyn, Carter continued to live and work in New York city. A quote from Nanette Carter, "Although I was influenced by jazz, African art, Japanese prints, and Russian constructivism, people persist in seeing my pictures in natural terms; as representing or evoking elements or qualities of landscape, the ocean or even the sky. I said once in an interview that my work is probably a synthesis of all there and that I think that still holds true. My paintings and prints may appear non-objective but, they are in many ways, about what we see and experience in nature".

Nanette Carter, born in Columbus, Ohio, is known for her oil on Mylar technique, and is frequently referred to as a ‘visual storyteller’. After receiving her MFA at Pratt Institute of Art in Brooklyn, Carter continues to live and work in New York City.

Segments #27, 1992, Oils on canvas

Mary Lovelace O’Neil

The Mother of the Twins Carries a Gun

Audio Transcript

Mary Lovelace O'Neil from Jackson, Mississippi is a painter and makes various prints. Her work represents the United States in numerous private and public collections around the world. To name just a few, they have been shown in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Morocco, Nigeria, and Senegal.

Mary Lovelace O’Neil, from Jackson, Mississippi, is both a painter and makes various prints. Her work represents the United States in numerous private and public collections around the world. To name just a few: Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Egypt, Gambia, France, Morocco, Nigeria and Senegal.

She Thinks She’s a Zebra, Actually She’s a Painted Pony, 2007, Mixed media

Löis Mailou Jones

Le Camp de Gitanes (Bergues, France), 1940

Audio Transcript

Löis Mailou Jones is the longest surviving artist of the Harlem Renaissance. Born and raised in Boston, she started drawing at an early age in which her parents encouraged. She pursued painting and used her immediate surroundings as an inspiration for her pieces. Jones has received many prestigious honors and awards from various renowned institutions. Jones' numerous oils and watercolors inspired by Haiti are probably her most widely known works; in them, her affinity for bright colours, her personal understanding of cubism basic principles, and her search for a distinct style, reached and [unintelligible]. In many of her pieces, one can see the influence of the Haitian culture with its African influences which reinvigorated the way she looked at the world.

Löis Mailou Jones is the longest-surviving artist of the Harlem Renaissance. Born and raised in Boston, Jones started drawing at an early age in which her parents encouraged. She pursued painting, using her immediate surroundings as inspiration for her pieces. Jones has received many prestigious honors and awards from various renowned institutions.

Panorama of Grasse, France, 1952, Oil on canvas

Gwendolyn Knight

Lullaby, 1992

Audio Transcript

Gwendolyn Knight was born in Barbados, West Indies, where she began painting from a young age. It wasn't till the 1970's that Knight started to exhibit her work. Knights figurative compositions and portraits of friends, through color and gesture, evoke and transform the artists life experiences into vibrant visual images.

Jacob Lawrence, whom is her spouse, preferred creating figurative compositions rather than the abstract expressionism paintings. Löis Mailou Jones, another woman from this exhibition, was also an influence to many; she also found that African sculpture, dance, and theatre inspired her for her work.

Gwendolyn Knight was born in Barbados, West Indies where she began painting from a young age. It was until the 1970s when Knight started to exhibit her work. Knight’s figurative compositions and portraits of friends, through color and gesture, evoke and transform the artist’s life experiences into vibrant visual images.

Untitled (Barbados), 1945, Oil on canvas board 

Elizabeth Catlett

Glory, 1986

Audio Transcript

Elizabeth Catlett, born and raised in Washington D.C. was both a graphic artist and sculptor. Catlett was the first female to earn her Masters of Fine Arts in sculpture from the University of Iowa. She once stated, "While working as a muralist for two months during the mid 1930's, with the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, I became influenced by the social activism of Mexican muralist Diego Rivera". Catletts sculptures and prints celebrate not only famous African-Americans but also, anonymous workers. This is where you see the influence of individuals such as Diego Riviera for his social activism.

Elizabeth Catlett, born and raised in Washington D.C. was both a graphic artist and sculptor. Catlett was the first female to earn an MFA in sculpture from the University of Iowa.

Political Prisoner, 1971, Bronze

Eve Sandler

Casteway Fear, 1989

Audio Transcript

Eve Sandler is a painter, multi-media installation artist, filmmaker, performer, and jeweler. Her often edgy work, created from unorthodox materials, are mixed with issues of politics, race, and power.

Eve Sandler is a painter, multi-media installation artist, filmmaker, performer, and jeweler. Her often edgy work, created from unorthodox materials, are mixed with issues of politics, race, and power.

Kenturah Davis

After Sol Sentences on Conceptual Art 1/35  

Audio Transcript

Kenturah Davis is an artist working between Los Angeles and New Haven. Davis' work alternates between portrait and design, using text as a point of departure. It explores the role language has in shaping our understanding of ourselves, and in the world around through a variety of genres and medias.

Kenturah Davis is an artist working between Los Angeles and New Haven. Davis’ work alternates between portraiture and design; using text as a point of departure. It explores the role language has in shaping our understanding of ourselves and in the world around through a variety of genres and mediums

STUDY FOR LATITUDES (2012-2016) [fully installed], Grease pencil on paper

STUDY FOR LATITUDES (2012-2016) [partly installed], Grease pencil on paper

Lisa Soto

Metapod I, 2015

Audio Transcript

Lisa C. Soto was born in Los Angeles but grew up between New York City and southern Spain. Soto's Caribbean heritage and continuous movement between continents and islands has shaped her theme giving her a more unique perspective. Soto hosts the Conversations by Artists for Artists monthly at her studio in Inglewood California.

Lisa C Soto was born in Los Angeles, but grew up between New York City and in Southern Spain. Soto’s Caribbean heritage and continuous movement between continents and islands has shaped her themes, giving her a unique perspective. Soto hosts “Conversations by artists for artists” monthly at her studio in Inglewood.

Piece from Relational Realities

Elisabeth Sunday

Photograph from the Animus-Anima Series

Audio Transcript

Elisabeth Sunday is a San Francisco bay area artist whom has been photographing indigenous people of Africa for over three decades. Sunday invented her own method of analog process for her photography. Sunday’s photographs enhanced the grace and dance-like qualities of her subjects through an elongated vertical reflection; the stretched and bent body captured to look like a single, expressive, brush stroke. Her work is based on her vivid dreams of elongated and insurged imagery that is influenced by a painting her grandfather made in the 1930's. After these dreams occurred she searched for her own way to elongate her photographs and in 1983 she started to photograph with a mirror.

Elisabeth Sunday is a San Francisco Bay area artist whom has been photographing indigenous people of Africa for over three decades. Sunday invented her own method and analog process for her photography. Sunday’s photographs enhance the grace and dance – like qualities of her subjects through an elongated vertical reflection, the stretched and bent body captured to look like a single expressive brush stroke.

Anima #2, 2005, Archival Pigment Print on Rag

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