In episode 40 of The Great Women Artists Podcast, Katy Hessel interviews the world-renowned art historian, Dr Melanie Herzog on the TRAILBLAZING American artist, ELIZABETH CATLETT (1915–2012).
[This episode is brought to you by Alighieri jewellery: www.alighieri.co.uk | use the code TGWA at checkout for 10% off!]
And WOW! This was such an insight into one of the MOST seminal artists (teacher, pioneer, and PERSON!) who lived throughout almost the entirety of the 20th century, and whose aim in her art was to tell stories, fight for justice, and make art accessible to ALL!!!
"I have always wanted my art to service my people—to reflect us, to relate to us, to stimulate us, to make us aware of our potential.” Elizabeth Catlett was known for her powerful sculptures, paintings, and prints that explored themes around race, feminism, and SOCIAL JUSTICE!
Born in DC, Catlett attended the ESTEEMED Howard University in the 30s under the legend who was Lois Mailou Jones, before completing her MFA at Iowa under the American artist Grant Wood who inspired her to "take as your subjects what you know best" ! She became instrumental in the Harlem Renaissance, before moving to Mexico in 1946, where she became heavily involved in political movements and joined the radical artists' collective called "Taller de Gráfica Popular". She remained in Mexico for the rest of her life, and only came back to the USA once for her major Studio Museum in Harlem exhibition.
The grandchild of freed slaves, Catlett was instrumental in pioneering a style that merged abstraction and figuration in a Modernist aesthetic – curvaceous figures and features with thick sharp lines – whilst also bringing in influences from African and Mexican art traditions.
Whilst alive (she passed in 2012 age 96) she divided her time between Mexico and the US which heavily informed her approach to form and printmaking. Catlett's artistic aim was to convey social messages through her heavily political work which saw her reflect the civil rights struggles in which she participated.
This episode is sponsored by Alighieri
Use the code: TGWA for 10% off!
Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
Sound editing by Amber Miller (@amber_m.iller)
Artwork by @thisisaliceskinner
Music by Ben Wetherfield