‘Godmother of African-American art’ Samella Lewis dies at 99
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Samella Lewis, the artist, historian and author known for her captivating visual print work has died.
According to Los Angeles Timesthe legendary activist and conservative died of kidney failure at the age of 99 on May 27.
Lewis was best known for her figurative work on paper which included detailed lithographs and serigraphs of images illustrating the black American experience.
In his 1968 playField a man stands in the middle of a wide field with his arms raised in the air as he clenches his hand into a clenched fist. Lewis references the plight of slaves and migrant workers in the outstanding painting. Another drawing, “Shout” captures black men and women praying in a church. A man stands with his arms raised as if catching the holy spirit.
Throughout her career, Lewis, who has also been dubbed the “godmother of African-American art,” published groundbreaking books featuring a host of black artists, including 20th-century sculptor Elizabeth Catlett. The groundbreaking artist, who was also Lewis’ mentor, was known for creating beautiful images of black women that portrayed their power and grace.
Lewis was also the mastermind behind the history book Art: African American which was published in 1978 but later revised in 2003 as “African American Art and Artist”. The book has become a key text used to document the history of black art in the United States.
In the early 1970s, the icon played a vital role in the Los Angeles art scene as manager of Multi Cul and the Gallery, two important community spaces for the city’s burgeoning artists.
In 1976, Lewis founded the Museum of African American Art to increase public awareness and support for African American art. The museum has exhibited works by notable black artists such as sculptor Richmond Barthé and painter Faith Ringgold.
Lewis has helped inspire and mentor other artists throughout his incredible life.
In 1970, the New Orleans native was appointed professor of art history and humanities at Scripps College in Claremont, where she became the first tenured African-American professor.
She also spent five years as head of the fine arts department at Florida A&M University. In 1993, the legendary artist received the Charles White Lifetime Achievement Award for his timeless work. She was also the recipient of the UNICEF Prize for the Visual Arts in 1995.
“Art is a language like poetry, evoking sensibilities and memories,” Lewis said. The LA Times This year. “Art really helps to talk about the past, the present, and to a large extent helps guide you into the future.”
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