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1. Elizabeth Catlett, quoted in Forever Free: Art by African-American Women, 1862–1980, ed. Arna Alexander Bontemps and Jacqueline Fonvielle-Bontemps (Normal: Center for the Visual Arts Gallery, Illinois State University, 1980), 68. [BACK]

2. Alain Locke, The Negro in Art: A Pictorial Record of the Negro Artist and of the Negro Theme in Art (Washington, D.C.: Associates in Negro Folk Education, 1940); James A. Porter, Modern Negro Art (New York: Dryden Press, 1943). [BACK]

3. Samella Lewis, The Art of Elizabeth Catlett (Claremont, Calif.: Hancraft Studios, 1984). [BACK]

4. Melanie Herzog, “‘My Art Speaks for Both My Peoples’: Elizabeth Catlett in Mexico” (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin–Madison, 1995); Melanie Anne Herzog, Elizabeth Catlett: An American Artist in Mexico (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000). That monograph offers a fuller treatment of Catlett's life and work than is possible in the present essay. [BACK]

5. Nancy Hartsock, “Rethinking Modernism: Minority vs. Majority Theories,” from The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse, ed. Abdul R. Jan-Mohamed and David Lloyd (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 26. [BACK]

6. bell hooks, Art on My Mind: Visual Politics (New York: New Press, 1995), 3. [BACK]

7. Ibid. [BACK]

8. Linda Nochlin, Representing Women (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999), 10. [BACK]

9. Lucy Lippard, Mixed Blessings: New Art in a Multicultural America (New York: Pantheon, 1990), 4. [BACK]

10. Cornel West, Race Matters (Boston: Beacon, 1993). [BACK]

11. Freida High Tesfagiorgis, “Afrofemcentrism and Its Fruition in the Art of Elizabeth Catlett and Faith Ringgold: A View of Women by Women,” in Sage 4, no. 1 (1987): 25–32; reprinted in The Expanding Discourse: Feminism

and Art History, ed. Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard (New York: Icon Editions, 1992), 475–85. [BACK]

12. Tesfagiorgis, “Afrofemcentrism,” 26. See Freida High Wasikhongo, “Afrofemcentric: Twenty Years of Faith Ringgold,” in Faith Ringgold: Twenty Years of Painting, Sculpture and Performance (1963–1983), ed. Michele Wallace (New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1984), 17–18. [BACK]

13. Judith McWillie, The Migrations of Meaning (New York: INTAR Gallery, 1992), 8. [BACK]

14. Lippard, Mixed Blessings, 3. [BACK]

15. hooks, Art on My Mind, xiii. [BACK]

16. On the importance of the writings of women artists for understanding their visual art, see Mara R. Witzling, introduction to Voicing Our Visions: Writings by Women Artists, ed. Mara R. Witzling (New York: Universe Books, 1991). [BACK]

17. See Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment (New York: Routledge, 1991); also Patricia Hill Collins, “The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 14 (1989): 745–73. [BACK]

18. Elizabeth Catlett, interview with Clifton Johnson, January 7, 1984, audiotape recording in Elizabeth Catlett Papers, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana. Also see Karl M. Schmitt, Communism in Mexico: An Exercise in Political Frustration (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965), 140–42; and Helga Prignitz, El Taller de Gráfica Popular en México 1937–1977, trans. Elizabeth Siefer (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1992), 142. Prignitz cites conversations with various Taller artists who were denied entry to the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. [BACK]

19. Published in the first issue of Freedomways magazine in 1961, Catlett's talk at the National Conference of Negro Artists is reminiscent of her earlier writing on art and democracy. See Elizabeth Catlett, “The Negro People and American Art,” Freedomways 1, no. 1 (1961): 74–80, reprinted in part in Lewis, Art of Elizabeth Catlett. On her exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem, see Elizabeth Catlett: Prints and Sculpture, exhib. cat., foreword by Elton Fax, commentary by Jeff Donaldson (New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1971). [BACK]

20. In 1964, Catlett was first among the “Four Rebels in Art” discussed by Elton Fax in an essay in Freedomways. Fax discussed her early exposure to the oppression suffered by African Americans and its ongoing impact on her work. He also noted her residence in Mexico. He reiterated and expanded upon these themes in Seventeen Black Artists (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1971), where he also described her experiences with racism and political conservatism in the United States. Elton C. Fax, “Four Rebels in Art,” Freedomways 4 (1964): 215–25. The other artists were Jacob Lawrence, Charles White, and John Biggers. [BACK]

21. See Fax, Seventeen Black Artists, 24, 29. [BACK]


22. In 1970 Catlett was honored as an Elder of Distinction by CONFABA 70, the Conference on the Functional Aspects of Black Art held at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Denied a visa by the U.S. embassy to attend, she made a statement to the conference by phone from Mexico. From her Mexican vantage point, she offered her experience in Mexico as a model for black artists in the United States. Typed manuscript in Elizabeth Catlett Papers, Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana; quoted in part in Herzog, Elizabeth Catlett, 147–49. [BACK]

23. Richard J. Powell, “Face to Face: Elizabeth Catlett's Graphic Work,” in Elizabeth Catlett: Works on Paper, 1944–1992, ed. Jeanne Zeidler (Hampton, Va.: Hampton University Museum, 1993), 53. [BACK]

24. Quoted in Marc Crawford, “My Art Speaks for Both My Peoples,” Ebony 25 (January 1970): 101. [BACK]

25. Michael Brenson, “Elizabeth Catlett's Sculptural Aesthetics,” in Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty-Year Retrospective, exhib. cat. (Purchase: Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York, 1998), 27. [BACK]

26. Ibid., 36. [BACK]

27. A major retrospective of Catlett's prints and drawings, “Elizabeth Catlett: Works on Paper, 1944–1992,” has traveled to museums, university art galleries, and community art centers throughout the United States since 1993. “Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty-Year Retrospective” opened at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, New York, in 1998 and traveled to several additional venues. [BACK]

28. Quoted in Lewis, Art of Elizabeth Catlett, 26; also in Herzog, Elizabeth Catlett, 173. [BACK]

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