Tag Archives: contemporary art

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:


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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Life on Mars

Life on Mars – an art show? The announcements are hot and heavy these days about the fact that “Life on Mars” is soon to open next door. In any other year, the announcements would be for the Carnegie International; this is the first time since 1896 that the Carnegie Museum of Art’s (CMA) international exhibition has been given a unique title.

So OK, another contemporary art exhibition that can provoke the “my-kid-could-do-that” thoughts, or can leave one wondering why in the world anyone would call this stuff art. On the other hand, think about going to the exhibition with your brain wide open ready to be shocked or startled – or occasionally soothed, believe it or not!

As a run up to the show itself, the exhibition’s website is a plunge right into the pool of increasing online inter-connectedness with the purpose of the website to get people talking before it opens. If this isn’t appealing, check out the history of the International both of its earliest years and, more pictorially, of its first 100 years albeit not online. The catalogs of the most recent exhibitions (1985, 1988, 1991, 1995, 1999/2000 and 2004/2005) all have insightful essays that unravel some of the mysteries one encounters in contemporary art. While the art collection is brimming with books about contemporary art and the search for meaning such as Art on the Edge and Over (Weintraub), there are other recent titles that focus on areas such as Bio Art, Destination Art, formlessness, convergences in art to name but a few. These are all fine if you are really eager to read more about contemporary art! If, however, you are not, and would rather explore the potential for a real life on Mars, check this out!


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