Telfair Museum of Art

Savannah, GA




Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox

December 9, 1997 - February 15, 1998

Mary Edmonia Lewis, (born c. 1843 or 1845, death unknown),

Forever Free, 1867, marble, 41.25 x 17 x 22 inches, Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


"Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox" features 50 sculptures by 10 African American women representing more than 100 years of overcoming the persistent obstacles of racism, sexism, and class structure.

In the nineteenth century, women had little opportunity to pursue their educations, to say nothing of advanced art training. They fought against institutional barriers that prevented them from studying at art academies with their male peers. And they struggled against the prevailing notion that women artists were merely hobbyists who pursued art as a means to achieve refinement or as a way to decorate their homes.

Agusta Savage, (1892 - 1962))

La Citadelle-Freedom, 1930, Bronze, 14.5 x 7 x 6 inches, Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

While women were encouraged to dabble in watercolors, acquiring the skills necessary to work in the demanding field of sculpture was a daunting task that met with resistance at every turn.

This exhibition is a testament to the tenacity and creativity of the artists. The works range in date from the 1860s to the 1990s, and reflect the general development from Neo-Classicism, as exemplified by the work of Edmonia Lewis, to more contemporary pursuits, as seen in the work of Geraldine McCullough and Barbara Chase-Riboud. In spite of great cultural obstacles, each woman expressed the creative voice within.

This exhibition is organized by the Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum in Philadelphia with sponsorship from AT&T, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. and the William Penn Foundation. Local sponsorship provided by Carson Products Company.

Text and photos courtesy of Telfair Museum of Art

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