Synopses & Reviews
Creating Their Own Image marks the first comprehensive history of African-American women artists, from slavery to the present day. Using an analysis of stereotypes of Africans and African-Americans in western art and culture as a springboard, Lisa E. Farrington here richly details hundreds of important works--many of which deliberately challenge these same identity myths, of the carnal Jezebel, the asexual Mammy, the imperious Matriarch--in crafting a portrait of artistic creativity unprecedented in its scope and ambition. In these lavishly illustrated pages, some of which feature images never before published, we learn of the efforts of Elizabeth Keckley, fashion designer to Mary Todd Lincoln; the acclaimed sculptor Edmonia Lewis, internationally renowned for her neoclassical works in marble; and the artist Nancy Elizabeth Prophet and her innovative teaching techniques. We meet Laura Wheeler Waring who portrayed women of color as members of a socially elite class in stark contrast to the prevalent images of compliant maids, impoverished malcontents, and exotics "others" that proliferated in the inter-war period. We read of the painter Barbara Jones-Hogu's collaboration on the famed Wall of Respect, even as we view a rare photograph of Hogu in the process of painting the mural. Farrington expertly guides us through the fertile period of the Harlem Renaissance and the "New Negro Movement," which produced an entirely new crop of artists who consciously imbued their work with a social and political agenda, and through the tumultuous, explosive years of the civil rights movement. Drawing on revealing interviews with numerous contemporary artists, such as Betye Saar, Faith Ringgold, Nanette Carter, Camille Billops, Xenobia Bailey, and many others, the second half of Creating Their Own Image probes more recent stylistic developments, such as abstraction, conceptualism, and post-modernism, never losing sight of the struggles and challenges that have consistently influenced this body of work. Weaving together an expansive collection of artists, styles, and periods, Farrington argues that for centuries African-American women artists have created an alternative vision of how women of color can, are, and might be represented in American culture. From utilitarian objects such as quilts and baskets to a wide array of fine arts, Creating Their Own Image serves up compelling evidence of the fundamental human need to convey one's life, one's emotions, one's experiences, on a canvas of one's own making.
"Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists is an exemplary piece of scholarship. Rich in information and images, it is contextualized in socio-economic, political and artistic facts. This tome is a brilliant history reflecting the aesthetics and the social and metaphysical traditions of African-American women artists and their artistry. A Must Read!!"--Tritobia Hayes-Benjamin, Howard University
Farrington's survey work fills gaps in the history of American art, and should keep these artists from being overlooked in the future."--CHOICE
"A clearly written and beautifully illustrated text that presents the myriad and nuanced experiences, visions, and talents of African-American women artists."--April F. Masten, Reviews in American History
"From 'women's work' in fabric art of the slavery era to 'post-black' artists working in a stunning range of styles and mediums, Lisa Farrington's Creating Their Own Image presents an important survey of the extraordinary contributions African-American women artists---unknown and known, past and present---have made and continue to make to our visual culture. This is a book we will consult, and enjoy, often."--Henry Louis Gates, Jr., W. E. B. Du Bois Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University
"Farrington gives the reader a layered narrative and a dazzling array of artworks.... It is the kind of book anyone interested in art, women's art, or African American art will want to own and refer to constantly. Anyone teaching women's studies, gender studies, or African American women's studies will want to own this as well."--History
"This is the book that teachers and students have been waiting for. Farrington provides a cohesive, accessible, and historically contextualized overview of the work of African-American women artists. And she offers here as well a thought-provoking analysis of how the politics of modernism and postmodernism have affected their most recent efforts to gain control over 'their own image.'"--Norma Broude, Professor of Art History, American University and Co-editor, The Power of Feminist Art: The American Movement of the 1970s, History and Impact
"A captivating and thorough study of a long-ignored aspect of America's art history....is highly recommended for all academic and public libraries."--CHOICE
"Lisa Farrington has left few, if any, stones unturned as she surveys the significant contribution that African American women artists have made to world art. Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists cogently tells it all. This book is a must for all who wish to enhance their knowledge of American art."--David C. Driskell, Distinguished University Professor of Art, Emeritus, University of Maryland
Weaving together an expansive collection of artists, styles, and periods, Farrington explores how, for centuries, African-American women artists have created an alternative vision of how women of color are be represented in American culture.
About the Author
Lisa E. Farrington
is Chairperson and Professor in the Department of Art and Music at John Jay College. Her books include Faith Ringgold
and Art on Fire: The Politics of Race and Sex in the Paintings of Faith Ringgold