African American Women in Art (For Science)

Ever since Sky wrote about sketching, I’ve had art on the brain: making it, appreciating it, learning more about it, trying to incorporate more of it into my life. Then I took a stroll through the Gallery at Main Library and fell madly in love with the current exhibit from the Nia Quilters’ Guild. You can see why:

NiaQuilts2013

Quilt by Barbara Russell, “Flower Garden.”
Photo by Jude Vachon, 2013
All rights reserved to the artists

The history of African American women in the visual arts–both fine and folk–is a rich one, amplified by the wealth of contemporary women creating amazing bodies of work, such as Renee Cox, Robin Holder, and Dindga McCannon. Artist and educator Dr. Cora Marshall maintains an excellent research website where you can learn about these and other women artists of color (because Black History Month and Women’s History Month are points of entry for discovery, not the final word in what there is to know). Thanks to the magic of the internet, you can also catch up on exhibits you’ve missed, such as Subjective Visions, which was hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Other resources for beginning your exploration of African American women’s art include:

Black American Feminisms: Art. This portion of a much larger bibliography is still pretty darned impressive on its own, giving complete citations for books and journal articles about the intersection of race, gender, and feminism in women’s art.

Makers: Faith Ringgold. In a series of short video clips, the prominent artist-activist provides first-person testimony about a life in the arts. Part of the astonishing Makers initiative from PBS.

Slide Collection: African and African American Art. Main Library owns multiple slide sets in this area, which the helpful staff in the Music, Film & Audio department will be happy to help you locate and peruse. Collections of interest include “I Can Still Quilt Without My Glasses,” “Women of Color in Art Unit 1: African American,” and “Lois Mailou Jones.”

Black Women in America: Visual Arts. This electronic reference work is available to everybody with a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh card via Oxford Reference Online. You can also get a peek at the contents–which include a survey essay and links to biographies of individual artists–by dropping by any of our locations. See also The African American Experience, a digital repository of black history and culture, for those savvy enough to have a CLP card.

The August Wilson Center for African American Culture. Want to know more about contemporary women in the arts, and possibly meet them in person? Visit this Pittsburgh treasure to see an exhibit or attend an event.

Wondering why I chose to write about the arts for Black History Month instead of this year’s official science theme? My colleagues in the Reference Department already covered that this month in our brand new newsletter. Check it out, then subscribe so you won’t miss a single month of serendipitous discovery and interesting books you might not discover via the usual channels.

–Leigh Anne

who would love to hear from artists and art aficionados in the comments section

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