SchoolArts Magazine

NOV 2012

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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Looking & Learning Motivation Pull-out resource While the human need to make art is universal, people are motivated to create it for many different reasons. N eolithic artists created cave paintings to ensure success in the hunt. Ancient Egyptian art was motivated by the quest to envision the afterlife as a continuation of earthly life. African figural sculpture honors those who have gone before. Hopi katsina figures represent nature and teach children cultural beliefs. Figures of the Buddha in roadside shrines in Japan are intended to aid travelers along the way. Modern Motivations Today, contemporary artists are often motivated by personal experiences, social interests, and the desire to create dialogue. African-American artists like Elizabeth Catlett and Kara Walker often explore issues surrounding slavery and civil rights in their work. Catlett's I Have Special Reservations is part of "The Negro Woman" series and commemorates an incident in which some Dillard University students removed the "Colored Only" sign from a New Orleans bus. The piece has the emotive power of German Expressionist prints, but also gives dignity to the figure. In much of her work, Catlett sought to express the dignity and beauty of African Americans. She suggested that African-American art should strive to establish trends that express the unique nature of African-American culture. Kara Walker's Exodus of Confederates from Atlanta is part of "Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War," a series of fifteen prints that interweave her distinctive silhouettes with a series of prints published in 1866 in Harper's magazine. The series blends her comments on racism, Civil War iconography, and the influence of stereotyped images of African Americans on contemporary society. In Exodus of Confederates from Atlanta, the floating heads of About the Artists Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012) Elizabeth Catlett, born and raised in Washington, DC, originally studied painting. She switched to sculpture while she was studying at the University of Iowa. She was also a prolific printmaker, influenced by the social-realist Mexican muralists whose work she saw while studying lithography in Mexico City. In 1946, Catlett moved to Mexico City, where she taught in the Peoples' Graphic Workshop. The workshop produced inspirational prints about the revolutionary period in Mexico and sought to raise the dignity and increase the knowledge of largely uneducated poor Mexicans. This experience cemented her resolve to express the situation of African Americans in her art. Elizabeth Catlett, I Have Special Reservations, 1946. Linocut on cream wove paper, Sheet: 151/8 x 113/8" (38.5 x 28.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Emily Winthrop Miles Fund, 1996.47.2. Art © Catlett Mora Family Trust/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. male and female ex-slaves dwarf the scene of Confederate soldiers fleeing Atlanta after the Union siege, a comment on how the plight of the former slaves was clearly relegated to a position of secondary importance in American society. Walker is an artist who is motivated to question the status quo in America, challenging the idea that race is no longer an issue that artists need to address. Kara Walker (b. 1969) Born in Stockton, Calfornia, Kara Walker's family moved to Georgia when she was thirteen. While living in the South, she became fascinated and disturbed by nostalgia for the pre-Civil War South. Her earliest memories of sitting on her father's lap watching him draw inspired her interest in becoming an artist. Her signature style features hand-cut silhouette figures that portray the tension between racism and historic perceptions of African Americans, often in giant, room-size installations. Her silhouettes appropriate the cut-paper silhouettes technique that was popular in 1700s and 1800s—this technique was once considered a "woman's art." Walker uses this technique to challenge ideas about and create a dialogue surrounding race in America. schoolartsonline.com 23

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