Archive for February, 2012
Edmonia Lewis: Abolition Archivist
“I am going back to Italy to do something for the race — something that will excite the admiration of the other races of the earth.”
— Edmonia Lewis
Born in 1845, sculptor Edmonia Lewis gained international recognition through her many works around the abolitionist movement. She brought attention and pride to the abolition movement from around the globe.
Before graduating from Oberlin College in Ohio, Lewis moved to Boston to study under Edward Augustus Brackett, a well-known sculptor. She met many influential Boston abolitionists and found inspiration in their lives, as well as in the stories of Civil War heroes and freed slaves. She created a bust of Robert Gould Shaw, the commander of an African-American Civil War regiment. Several other popular works include medallion portraits of abolitionists John Brown and William Lloyd Garrison.
After the Civil War ended in 1865, Lewis used the income from her work to pursue her dream of studying and working in Italy. She sailed to Rome to study neoclassical style, and her previous success made her studio there a tourist destination. A testament to Lewis’ renown as an artist came in 1877, when President Ulysses S. Grant commissioned her to create his portrait.
Throughout her career Lewis continued to depict abolitionists and incorporate themes of slavery. She often donated works to the YMCA and churches. She died in 1907 in London.
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Stay Tuned: Live Updates from Media That Matters 2012 Conference
Gordon Parks: Inequality Illuminator
“The subject matter is so much more important than the photographer.”
— Gordon Parks
Gordon Parks, a largely self-taught photographer, musician, novelist and film director, is best remembered for his photo essays that chronicled the African-American experience.
Born in Fort Scott, Kan., and raised in a segregated school system, Parks experienced racism at an early age. When he moved to Chicago, he aimed to become a freelance photographer and share some of the injustice he experienced.
Parks combined a devotion to documentary realism with a knack for making his own feelings self-evident. The style he favored was derived from the Depression-era photography project of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which he joined on a fellowship at the age of 30.
His most famous photo is from 1942, “American Gothic.” The photo shows a black woman, Ella Watson, who worked on the cleaning crew for the FSA building, standing stiffly in front of an American flag, a broom in one hand and a mop in the background. Parks had been inspired to create the picture after being repeatedly denied service that very day in Washington, D.C., shops.
After the FSA disbanded, Parks became Life magazine’s first African-American staff photographer. He worked there for more than 20 years, specializing in subjects relating to racism, poverty and black urban life. Parks also dabbled in film and music. He performed as a jazz pianist and even directed the 1971 film “Shaft,” as well as its sequel.
Parks died of cancer at the age of 93.