Sculptor and printmaker Elizabeth Catlett used her art to advocate for social change in both the U.S. and her adopted country of Mexico for almost three-quarters of a century. The granddaughter of former slaves, Catlett was raised in Washington, D.C. Her father died before she was born and her mother held several jobs to raise three children. Refused admission to Carnegie Institute of Technology because of her race, Catlett enrolled at Howard University, where her teachers included artist Loïs Mailou Jones and philospher Alain Locke. She graduated with honors in 1935 and went on to earn the first the first M.F.A. in sculpture at the University of Iowa five years later.
Grant Wood, her painting teacher at Iowa, encouraged students to make art about what they knew best and to experiment with different mediums, inspiring Catlett to create lithographs, linoleum cuts, and sculpture in wood, stone, clay, and bronze. She drew subjects from African American and later Mexican life.
In 1946, a grant from the Rosenwald Foundation enabled Catlett to move to Mexico City with her husband, printmaker Charles White. There she joined the Taller de Gráfica Popular, an influential and political group of printmakers. At the Taller, Catlett met the Mexican artist Francisco Mora, whom she married after divorcing White and with whom she had three sons.
Encyclopædia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Elizabeth-Catlett
Contemporary Wing: http://contemporarywing.com/artists/elizabeth-catlett
NYT~”Elizabeth Catlett, Sculptor With Eye on Social Issues, Is Dead at 96″: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/04/arts/design/elizabeth-catlett-sculptor-with-eye-on-social-issues-dies-at-96.html
Loïs Mailou Jones (1905-1998)
African-American painter, educator, and champion of international black artists
Jeanne, Martiniquaise / 1938 / Oil on canvas / 24”x28 1/2”
Elmer Simms Campbell (1906-1971)
First African-American illustrator to break the color line in mass-market publications
New Yorker cover / February 3rd, 1934 / Painting