Since her thesis sculpture Mother and Child was completed and exibited in the Negro Exposition, Golden Jubilee National Exposition in Chicago in 1941--and by her long and close association with writer Margaret Walker, artist Margaret Goss Burroughs, her artist husband Francisco Mora, and the artists of Taller Graphica de Populaire (TGP)--Catlett has produced works that have shaped an art of resistance, a body of work that challenges Eurocentric, hegemonic representations of the Black body, and has explored issues of gender so superbly expressed in her early Negro Woman Series (1946-47). A consummately skilled artist and exemplarly intellectual/activist, Catlett, although living in Mexico and kept from entering the United States by the State Department, inspired young artists of the 1960s to produce works that affirmed and celebrated images of blackness and of other peoples of color, a countervale to European American and European constructions of Black inferiorization, if I may draw upon Frantz Fanon in this regard.

     Scholars of the diaspora, such as Paul Gilroy, have maintained African American cultural expressions have influenced peoples around the world. This is particularly true of U.S. Black music. Gilroy and others have written insightfully about this influence, beginning with the Fisk Jubilee Singers on Europe in the 19th century, and jazz as a major influence at the dawn of the 20th century.4

     Intellectuals, artists, scholars, and activists who were involved in making and interpreting Black expression became diasporic figures when they themselves had an epiphany, a moment of recognition of their agency and that of their group. As Richard Powell has brilliantly observed, the moment of recognition is "emancipatory" 5 which, for Black Americans, is an acknowledgement of a past shaped by the "terror" of chattel slavery and its continued legacy revealed in the ideology of white supremacy and practiced in lynching, public floggings, and the political disfranchisement that was widespread in the 20th century.

 

 

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HUAN 7 
February 2001