|Elizebeth Catlett Mora|
....Maria Antonieta Alvarez, Catlett's daughter-in-law, said the artist died Monday in the house in Cuernavaca, Mexico, where she had lived for the past 30 years, she was 96. Catlett is survived by three sons, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, her family said. The family said her remains would be cremated in a private ceremony and would remain in Mexico.
|Elizabeth Catlett Mora; Invisible Man (Monument to Ralph Ellison); 2003; bronze|
Ms. Catlett created large-scale sculptures of musicians Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson, including Sojourner Truth.
|Catlett, Elizabeth, Sojourner Maquette 1999 17" High|
|Sojourner, Mexican limestone sculpture. 1999|
Born in Washington D.C., studying ceramics at the Art Institute of Chicago, she met her first husband, painter Charles White in the early 1940s.Catlett moved to Mexico in 1946, became friends with great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and others in his circle, and married Mexican artist Francisco Mora.
She became known for her commitment to winning greater rights for blacks, women and workers in the United States and her adopted country. Catlett witnessed almost every important artistic and social movement of the 20th century and traveled in some of the same illustrious circles as the great American artist Jacob Lawrence and poet Langston Hughes.
She was arrested during a railroad workers' protest in Mexico City in 1958 and in 1962 the U.S. State Department banned her from returning to the United States for nearly a decade.
Working in wood, stone and other natural materials, she produced simple, flowing sculptures of women, children and laborers, and prints of Mexicans and black Americans that she used to promote social justice.
For years, Ms. Catlett was denied entry to the United States because of suspected Communist sympathies, and her art was seldom seen in the land of her birth. Yet, in the past 25 years, her prints and sculptures have been exhibited worldwide and have entered the collections of major museums, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
“She’s really one of the foremost African American artists of the 20th century,” Melanie Anne Herzog, an art history professor at Edgewood College in Madison, Wis., and author of “Elizabeth Catlett: An American Artist in Mexico,” said in an interview. “She was a tremendous inspiration to other artists in the African American tradition and in Mexico.”
She took his advice to heart and began making images of strong and beautiful black women, making signature issues of racial identity, family dynamics and social and political struggle.
The Mexican National Council f or Culture and Arts said that throughout her career Catlett demonstrated "her interest in social justice and the rights of black and Mexican women."
With its formal beauty and universal themes, Catlett's artwork drew much of its form and emotional energy from her investigation of racial and ethnic identity.
Catlett said that Harriet Tubman and singer and actor Paul Robeson - two icons of black freedom - inspired her, and that she wanted to express herself in art as Robeson had done in music and drama.
The smooth, stylized faces she sculpted were less about individual people and more about the dignity and nobility of universal man, woman and child - sculpture that's meant to comfort, uplift and inspire.
Her prints expressed her lifelong commitment to use art as a tool for social change, often incorporating the slogans ("Black Is Beautiful") and revolutionary heroes (Angela Davis and Malcolm X) of the civil rights and black power movements.
SAIC to recognized her achievements and commitment to the arts she was a past commencement speakers and honorary degree recipient.
"I was honored to meet Elizabeth and Francisco Mora in 1997, they both were flow to Sacramento, by invitation of the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, Linda Bloom was the Arts in Public Places Manager, under the direction of Michelle Walker, the Executive Director. The APP Committee interviewed dozens of artist, gave them all wonderful receptions, and evening dinners to get to know them on a personal level. I gladly embraced the idea of being a driver, to pick them up from the Sacramento International Airport, transport them to a from meetings, and take her to the Health Food Store so she could pick up herbs and spices. I had dinner with them both one on one, we both could talk for hours, but Franscio was tiring of us both. This is a cherished memory.
These memories I will always cherish. Kevin Hellon the owner of Zawadi Gallery also honored her in 1995, when she was at the University of Davis, by bringing her to the Sam Pannell Meadowview Community Center in a limousine where she was given a large soul filled reception."