Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of Elizabeth Catlett, a woman who is arguably the most noted African-American woman artist of our time. Catlett’s works are timeless, and I think it is imperative for everyone to see her works.
I first became familiar with Catlett’s work through her iconic image of The “Sharecropper,” a lithograph print of an elderly black woman in the fields. In this image, I immediately saw the likeness of my grandmother, grand-aunt or any elderly woman sitting in the pews of my church. Those women who work tirelessly in the fields, whether that be the plantation fields or the proverbial fields — to grant me the opportunities that I currently have.
Catlett’s was also unshakable in her belief in equality and civility. She was active in her resolve to the feminist and civil rights movements, affliction with the communist party, and protesting in Mexico City, which ultimately left her listed as an “undesirable” alien. She eventually became a Mexican citizen and renounced her citizenship to the United States.
Catlett’s works are internationally recognized and featured in major public collections in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Library of Congress.
There are many opportunities during this celebratory period to take in Catlett’s work, one of which is at Hampton University Museum. “Elizabeth Catlett: A Celebration of 100 Years and Elizabeth Catlett and the Hampton Art Tradition” is on view at Hampton University through November 2015. It celebrates the legacy of this profound artist with her most notable pieces and 25 never before exhibited works.
Dr. Vanessa Thaxton-Ward, curator of collections at Hampton University Museum, recently reflected on the Elizabeth Catlett exhibit with The Agora Culture.
“As a curator, as an African-American woman and a mother, I am so pleased that institutions throughout the United States have planned various types of events to commemorate Elizabeth Catlett and her contributions,” she said. “Not only here at Hampton with our current Catlett exhibition and Curator’s Tea featuring her son Francisco Mora Catlett, but The Stella Jones Gallery in New Orleans has an exhibition that celebrates her work, her husband, Francisco Mora, and her son, David’s work.
Sharing Dr. Thaxton-Ward’s sentiment of continuing to educate through exhibitions and dialogue about the brilliance of Elizabeth Catlett, The Agora Culture sincerely wishes Elizabeth Catlett a very happy birthday.