In the works of the three women we will be viewing and discussing, though they come from diverse cultural heritages as do our writers, we will discover that they share a common bond . . . the use of the feminine form as a significant theme in their art. The women being introduced here are breaking boundaries as they portray ordinary women with pride and dignity.
Yolanda Lopez resides in San Francisco with her husband and son. Her small apartment is filled with ceramic knickknacks of sleepy Mexicans. She does drawings, graphic designs and paintings. She is the educational director for the Mission District Culture Center and visiting instructor at the California College of Arts and Crafts. She has taught Ethnic Studies at U. C. Berkeley. What she has mainly tried to do is raise public consciousness of the misrepresentation of Latinos in mainstream American culture.
[Examine fig. 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,& 10]
Mine Okubo was born in 1912 in Riverside, California. This woman has a very interesting life. After the outbreak of World War II the loyalty of (nisei) first generation and (sansei) second generation Japanese was questioned. Ms. Okubo was given the number 13,660 and sent to a relocation camp. Finding herself in these circumstances, she took out pen and ink and began to sketch her “American Experience.” These works of art told the story of camp life. These powerful images now serve as a unique historical documentation of a people’s suffering, endurance, and ability to survive with dignity.
Okubo was one of seven children. Her mother graduated from the Tokyo Art Institute, and her father owned a confectionery store though he later worded as a gardener. Okubo graduated in 1936 with a Master’s Degree in Art from U. C. Berkeley and in 1938 was the winner of the Bertha Taussig traveling scholarship, the University’s highest honor. She also won the Anonymous Donor Prize in 1941, an Honorable Mention in 1942, the Arts Fund Prize in 1943, and the Art Association Prize in 1944, and the Museum Annual Prize in 1948. Let us now view some of her works. [Examine fig. 3,4,7,11,16, & 17]
Elizabeth Catlett is an outstanding African American sculptor. Catlett was born in Washington D. C. in 1919. Catlett became aware of art in high school. After high school she tried to enter Carnegie Institute but was rejected because of her color. Encouraged by her mother, she enrolled in Howard University. It was here that she met Alain Locke, a philosopher who encouraged African Americans to reclaim their ancestral heritage through art.
In 1941 she won first prize for her thesis project, Mother and Child. Later in New Orleans at Dillard University, she became actively involved in the civil rights movement. From this period of her life she developed works which captured the emotional appeal of the decade. After marrying another artist, Charles White, the couple moved to New York and mingled with such intellectuals as Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, and Jacob Lawrence. Though she was part of this elite group, she never received the recognition that they experienced.
In 1945 after receiving a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship, she participated in a printshop in which she completed her portfolio entitled The Negro Woman. Through the years she has participated in exhibits in Belgrade, Berlin, Havana, Tokyo, Peking, and the U.S. She has had 37 one person exhibits.
Catlett has also been commissioned to complete both private and public works. She completed Embrace for the 25th anniversary of Bill Cosby and his wife Camille. It is a 3 ft. sculpture of an embracing couple done in black onyx. She completed another called Dancing for the Stevie Wonder Foundation. She is also the talent behind the 10 foot bronze statue of Louis Armstrong in the city of New Orleans. A major bronze sculpture, The People of Atlanta, measuring 9 X 34 was commissioned by the city of Atlanta. It shows the diversity of the culture including a tragic figure of a homeless person. She is truly a master.
[Examine fig. 4,5,8,10,15,18,& 19]