The Role Of Female African American Sculptors In The Harlem Renaissance

1708 words - 7 pages

The Role of Female African American Sculptors in the Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance, a time of global appreciation for the black culture, was a door opening for African American women. Until then, African Americans, let alone African American women, were neither respected nor recognized in the artistic world. During this time of this New Negro Movement, women sculptors were able to connect their heritages with the present issues in America. There is an abundance of culture and history to be learned from these sculptures because the artists creatively intertwine both. Meta Warrick Fuller and Edmonia Lewis, two of the most popular sculptors of this time, were able to reflect their native heritages and the dynamics of society through their artwork.

Meta Warrick Fuller and Edmonia Lewis were two of the most renowned women sculptors during this time. Fuller and Lewis’ pieces showed how they connected with the social happenings of the time as well as portraying their African roots. Often their subjects were chosen to serve as a political mission or statement as to their feelings of societal issues. Often their subjects were chosen to serve as a political mission or statement as to their feelings of societal issues. Their sculptures support the idea that these women were products of living within a contact zone.

As artists began to gain recognition in the artistic world, they continually represented what it meant to be black in America. Personalities and individualism were displayed through their work while simultaneously portraying the political, social, and economic conditions of being black. This idea runs parallel with Mary Louise Pratt’s (1990) definition of a contact zone. She defines it as a "term to refer to social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today" (p. 34). Even though African American art was more accepted during the Harlem Renaissance, these artists still faced the effects of being of this descent: discrimination, segregation, etc.
The Harlem Renaissance began in the 1910’s and lasted until the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. This movement of hope was strategically placed: Harlem was the largest black community in the country and New York was the center of the arts and also America’s top publishing center. "The Harlem Renaissance was a moment of hope and confidence, a proclamation of independence, and the celebration of a new spirit exemplified in the New Negro" (Fabre & Feith, 2001, p.2).

This celebration of the New Negro brought African Americans confidence and hope that a new racial attitude would come forth. Alain Locke, one of the leaders in this new movement, encouraged artists of the time to express Africanism in their art forms. He believed that art was a way to teach not just African Americans but all Americans,...

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