art · life curation

My Art Highlights for 2018

After a fantastic year of enjoying art, I thought it would be good for me to post some of my highlights from the last 12 months.

There really are too many highlights to cram into one post but I’m going to do my best!

I started this year off with viewing the terracotta army statues from China. As you all know, I visited China a few years ago and fell in love, so seeing the statues was like getting a taste of authentic China. I loved it and had a great time viewing the exhibition.

Next, nothing could top seeing Kenyan art while in Kenya! I wrote a post about Tom Mboya as well as some other Kenyan artists that I enjoyed. Getting to see art overseas is always a treat, since there is no guarantee that I will see these artists’ works stateside.

Paintings by Tom Mboya

I viewed Portuguese contemporary art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Art and was reminded of my goal to visit Portugal within the next 2 years. Just so you all know, I’ll be resuming my Portuguese language lessons in the upcoming year. I mean it: I’m going to speak Portuguese so that I can enjoy my trip and get around a little better than the average tourist.

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Archives of American Art, I viewed the exquisite and timeless work of Edmonia Lewis. I’m still impressed by her masterful handling of marble and her amazing ability when it comes to depicting her subjects with dignity and full of emotion. I was so impressed with her work that I recently did a comparison of her work with a similarly themed piece, because I simply can’t get tired of discussing Lewis’s work!

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The Death of Cleopatra by Edmonia Lewis

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Amy Sherald’s work at the National Portrait Gallery. Her portrait of Michelle Obama is a beautiful and unique interpretation of the former First Lady’s beauty, quiet resilience and charm. Seeing the painting in person impressed me far more than I expected, especially since Sherald’s signature technique forgoes capturing the rich tones of the subjects’ natural complexion and paints skin tone in greyscale, forcing art appreciators to focus on the expressions, posing, and attire depicted. I’m going to view some more of her work and maybe I’ll do an analysis of her style.

I also took a trip to Philadelphia and enjoyed the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There was so much art that I had to make a Part 1 and Part 2 to capture all of what I saw with my visit. I was delighted to see a Jean Leon Gerome painting that I’d never seen before.

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Night Flight by Howardena Pindell

I ended my year with the Howardena Pindell exhibition, that I loved so much that I had to visit it multiple times. Pindell is a living treasure, and I am thrilled that I got to see such a comprehensive retrospective of her work.

Those are my art highlights for 2018. I’m looking forward to bringing you all more art and more adventures in 2019!

 

 

 

art

A Tale of Two Cleopatras: Comparing and Contrasting Art

Happy Thursday, friends! After a recent trip to Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, I found myself with a few art photos that I wanted to share with you all, but I wanted to do something a little different. Instead of sharing the photos and simply telling you what I think about it, I decided that it would be more fun to compare the art with a similarly themed piece that I’ve also viewed in person. That way, I can describe the similarities, differences, and which piece I favor most.

(from left to right) Edmonia Lewis, The Death of Cleopatra; William Wetmore Story, Cleopatra

As you can see from the title, I’m comparing two marble Cleopatras today. The first work was part of my review of Edmonia Lewis’s work at the Archives of American Art (housed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum). Lewis’s The Death of Cleopatra was easily one of my favorite marble works of art at the museum.

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Photos of Lewis’s version of Cleopatra

The second Cleopatra is by William Wetmore Story, and is located at VMFA. This Cleopatra – his earliest version of the tragic Egyptian queen – is located in the American galleries at the museum. The massive work sits imposingly in the gallery and, in true queenly fashion, all other art in the room are dwarfed by the stunning Cleopatra.

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To keep this focused strictly on the works themselves, I avoided reading up on Wetmore Story. So there won’t be a comparison of the artists’ lives or legacies, but we will get into these pieces and discuss what they have in common and how they differ.

For starters, the subject is the same with both pieces. Both depict Queen Cleopatra, and (interestingly) both of the pieces portray her as having traditionally Greco-Roman facial features (kudos to the artists for remaining historically accurate when it came to her face). Both statues are massive: Lewis’s is a bit taller, but the posture is different, so they are actually very close in size. Amusingly, both also depict Cleopatra with one breast exposed. Perhaps they knew something about traditional Egyptian dress that I don’t?

While both of these Cleopatras are regal and elegant, the theme of the works couldn’t be more different. Wetmore Story’s Cleopatra is pensive and in deep contemplation: she is troubled by something and has probably just asked her servants to give her some privacy. Is she thinking about lost loves, or the impending downfall of her rule? Her mind may be racing over any number of things.

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Lewis’s Cleopatra has just committed suicide and is dying on her throne as her last royal act. She has just closed her eyes and her left arm has fallen limply to her side. Even in death, her face is struggling to relax comfortably: this queen is pained to the grave.

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As far as fine detailing on the pieces, I’m a fan of Wetmore Story’s version. To be fair, Lewis’s work had been exposed to considerable environmental elements and poor handling, so the sculpture isn’t as impeccably detailed as it (likely) once was.

My favorite Cleopatra is probably Lewis’s version, for this reason: she captured death and pain without making it grotesque or unnaturally pretty. This Cleopatra is finding it difficult to “rest in peace” but, ever the royal, she makes us feel pride, and not pity, for her. Wetmore Story’s Cleopatra is enchanting, for sure: I loved how well he captured her troubled mental state behind her stoic, regal expression. His Cleopatra is alive with emotion; however, Lewis’s Cleopatra moves us even in death.

That’s my not-so-quick comparison of two Cleopatras. I hope you all enjoyed and will make it a goal to see both of these beautiful works at some point in time. Enjoy your day, and I’ll chat with you all tomorrow!

 

art

Meta Warrick Fuller and Lois Mailou Jones: Let’s Honor Them Both!

It’s my pleasure to honor two talented Black women artists on this day. On June 9, 1877, Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, a gifted sculptress of Black descent was born. On June 9, 1998, Lois Maillou Jones, Black painter and teacher extraordinaire, died in Washington, DC. Because this day is full of Black Girl Artist Magic (yes, I’m tweaking the #BlackGirlMagic hashtag for my purposes), I wanted to talk a bit more about these remarkable women.

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Mother and Child by Meta Warrick Fuller (1962)

Both Meta and Lois spent time in France during the early half of the 20th century. Europe, generally speaking, was a friendlier environment for American Blacks, and it was easier to study in European ateliers than to attempt to integrate White studios in the US. Meta began at Academie Colarossi but eventually studied under Auguste Rodin, while Lois studied as part of a fellowship with Academie Julian.

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Arreau, Hautes-Pyrénée by Loïs Mailou Jones (1949)

Meta was a sculptress and used her talent to create works that captured her frustration with the treatment of Blacks in America. She explored themes such as despair and melancholy, but also touched on religious devotion and hopefulness. Meta drew upon historical accounts to sculpt some of her heartrending works. She worked primarily in bronze or plaster, and created an impressive body of work during her career. Many of her pieces are exhibited at the Danforth Museum, making it easy for anyone interested in exploring her oeuvre to view a wide variety of her pieces in one location.

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Story Time by Meta Warrick Fuller (year unknown)

She received many accolades during her lifetime but fell into obscurity for several years after her death. Toward the end of the 20th century, there was renewed interest in her work, and she is finally becoming a key figure in today’s discussions on American sculptors.

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Talking Skull by Meta Warrick Fuller (1937)

Lois, on the other hand, started out as a teacher but never gave up her dream to be an artist in her own right. She taught for over 40 years and eventually retired from the profession, while establishing herself as an artist of note. She drew inspiration from her international travels, including time spent in Haiti.

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Self Portrait by Lois Mailou Jones (1940)

These women led similar lives in several ways. Aside from both spending time studying in Paris, both Meta and Lois benefited from having White supporters during the early phases of their careers. Samuel Bing sponsored an exhibition for Meta, while Celine Marie Tabary often submitted Lois’s work to circumvent racist art competition policies that prevented Black Americans from competing.

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Ode to Kinshasa by Lois Mailou Jones (1972)

Though I’m not an artist, I am tremendously thankful for the fact that both Meta Warrick Fuller and Lois Maillou Jones shared their talents with the world. Their contributions added richly to the fabric and legacy of American art. May their work remind us – in perpetuity – of the importance of Black art!

(Photos courtesy of Pinterest, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Preston Joy blog, and Smithsonian American Art Museum)

art · life curation

Edmonia Lewis’s Work at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum

Happy Friday, friends! We made it through another week – hurrah!

Earlier this week – before the Mid-Atlantic region got hit with another round of snow – I stopped by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). Visits to the museum are good for my soul, and, since most schools are still in session, I don’t have to navigate around a lot of tourists. I can usually get to the museum, tour to my heart’s content, and return to my desk in under an hour. Sometimes I really love working in DC!

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Anyways, I recently went to SAAM for a very specific reason. I had researched Edmonia Lewis’s existing artwork and confirmed that one of her most famous pieces, The Death of Cleopatra, was located at SAAM. After learning that it was currently on view, I knew that I had to go and see it for myself.

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Photo of Edmonia Lewis (as shown on SAAM’s website)

I talked about Lewis when I wrote about my current favorite app. In that same post, I referenced an Art History Babes podcast episode that discussed Lewis’s life. I saw a few of her works on Google Arts & Culture but viewing art in person is so much more enjoyable. The surprise for me was that several of Lewis’s pieces were on view, so I took lots of pictures during this visit.

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Here is The Death of Cleopatra. This depicts Cleopatra seated on her throne, life slowly slipping away after being bitten by a poisonous snake. She’s dignified even in death, wearing her crown and full regal attire.

 

She’s substantial and powerful, and has chosen to die on the throne that she worked so hard to preserve. It’s a moving piece and a fine example of Lewis’s marble sculpting prowess.

 

A close up of the throne detailing and Cleopatra’s lifeless hand.

Lewis also sculpted Moses, a replica of the statue of Moses rendered by Michaelangelo (the original is at St. Peter’s in Rome). The original is much larger than Lewis’s version, but the resemblance is uncanny. Lewis skillfully imitated the works of great masters.

 

I wish I could have gotten some better photos, but it’s in a case so the reflection off the glass makes it hard to capture the detailing.

This whimsical statue is Poor Cupid, depicting the god of love caught in a trap. Cupid’s “aww shucks” expression made me chuckle.

 

 

As always, I enjoyed my trip to SAAM. There are a few other pieces by Edmonia Lewis on display: I may do a follow-up post about those works. In any case, I hope you enjoyed this post! This weekend, see if you can spend a little time at your local museum. You’ll be glad that you did. Until tomorrow . . .

life curation

Do You Know Your Black Art History?

In honor of Black History Month, I want to share some of my favorite Black women artists. These gifted creators established themselves during a time when most Black women were relegated to the roles of maid, cook, or caretaker. I love that these women dared to share their gifts and provide a diverse representation of Black womanhood.

Because I’m a geek for 3-dimensional art, I’m focusing on Black women that created sculptures. At one point, I was interested in sculpting as a profession: I even competed in art contests (and won a prize to boot!) So today, I’ll provide a list of notable Black sculptresses and then I’ll include some photos of their most famous works. There are literally too many of them to write mini-bios for each, but please take the time to check out a few of them. Their stories and their works are fascinating.

Tina Allen

Camille Billops

Erlena Chisolm Bland

Selma Burke

Fern Cunningham

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller

Ruth Inge Hardison

May Howard Jackson

Harriet Forte Kennedy

Edmonia Lewis

Winnie Owens-Hart

Alice Patrick

Nancy Elizabeth Prophet

Augusta Savage

Beulah Woodard

Here are some of my favorite works by a couple of the artists above (I’m skipping Edmonia Lewis because I featured her in my Current Favorite App post, that I’m sure you all read and enjoyed):

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George Washington Carver, by Tina Allen (In the Missouri Botanical Garden)

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Bust of an Ethiopian Woman by Tina Allen

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Sojourner Truth by Ruth Inge Harrison

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Maudelle by Beulah Woodard (1937-1938)

The Talking Skull, 1939, Bronze

The Talking Skull by Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1939)

 

If I left out any Black women sculptors that you think should be added to the list, let me know in the comments below! I’d love for this to be a comprehensive list with lots of good links to information on how Black women have contributed to the world of sculpture.