Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Art and Art History, Art History
Elizabeth Catlett (April 15, 1915 -April 2, 2012) created The Negro Woman with a unique artistic approach that reflected her circulation among multiple artist groups, including the Popular Front in the United States, the New Negro Movement, and regionalism. Most notably, she borrowed the visual language and medium of the Taller de Grafica Popular (TGP), an artist collective based in Mexico, where she travelled to complete the Negro Woman Series in 1946. The TGP created art “for the people,” and its members held Marxist sympathies. The fifteen linocuts in The Negro Woman, which work together to describe the spectrum of experiences of African American women, show the complexities of the black female hero. Catlett wanted African American women to be able to see themselves through her art, since a majority of art that Catlett encountered in museums in the United States overwhelmingly marginalized or occluded black women. By creating images of heroic black females in the visual language popularized by the TGP, Catlett fuses the struggles and accomplishments of African American female protagonists with Marxist political sympathies. Catlett utilized the titles of her prints in The Negro Woman to develop the narrative through a singular African American female narrator. The titles and the images work together create a sense of dissonance, which allows the viewer to create his or her own unique interpretation of The Negro Woman.