Posts Tagged ‘art history’

I do believe in black cowboys!

I do believe in black cowboys! (Photo credit: gwen)

On the Trail of Ancestors: A Black Cowboy’s Ride Across America

by Lisa K. Winkler

I loved this book which I ordered from Amazon Kindle. The large type and illustrations made for an easy read. I like the fast availability and notetaking in this format.

From the very beginning, I was also ‘riding a horse’ on this amazing trip. The author does not overplay the excitement, nor does she avoid the challenges. It takes planning and work to follow one’s dream.

Without repeating other reviews on the details, this book satisfies on inspiration and history. Memories came to mind of our drive from Massachusetts to CA with two teenagers. The stares we got were directed at our license plate. We had friends to stay with and family at the end. I will never forget the crowd of hotel employees in San Francisco who said they rarely see MA plates. Driving back, it seemed a really long way.

I took an old book with WPA research of roads built before interstates. It had cost $0.10. Each point along these quaint state and county roads were described with points of interest. We would never have arrived at our destination if I had been allowed to direct us to every waterfall, statue and museum.

Like this cowboy, we strayed sufficiently to make the trip interesting and educational. My daughter kept a travel journal. It captured the spirit of the adventure.

Miles Dean’s descriptions of the historical sites and people he saw kept me wondering, Where is he going next? Will he mention Cathay Williams as a Buffalo Soldier? Yes. How much is still in his journal? How much did the author have to research? I did not want him to come to the end of the journey.

What can you learn in addition to the tale?
It is rich in information about horses and today’s cowboys. It weaves together the past and the present. It can be a resource for home and school. The author poses questions at the end for discussion and further study. She provides a bibliography and offers a study guide, if needed.

Who should read this book?
Fathers should read this aloud to their boys. Mothers and girls will love the story of how to follow your dreams. All will gain knowledge about the country and its unique history. Teachers and creative artists should find much material to build on. All will be enriched. I cannot wait for the movie!

Who knew?

My Birthday Gift to You

A lot of you are checking out my art website (below). Please leave a comment or sign up for emails when I add something you might like. Don’t forget the checkout code: BSSNNX


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Bettye W. Harwell

Current reading:

The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock

This is the story of an 18th century English woman, Mary Delany who, at age 72, invents collage. The author has woven together the facts of her life and the history of the period in which she lived with an interpretation of the flower ‘mosaicks’.

Along with these wonderfully detailed ideas, the author interspersed her own life. Using her access to Mary’s letters, books that were written soon after her death and photographs of the very old works on paper, the author tells a compelling story.

Blogging as a Resource

The other writer’s are very generous in sharing things that interest them or that may be of interest to others bloggers. That is how I came across this book. Published in 2010 by Bloombury, it is well worth reading for the description of Mary’s methods, about art theory, about the details of aristocratic women’s lives and the wonderful photography. The artwork reminds of the delicate glass flowers at Harvard University. Much study was entailed in that project.  Mary Delany was her own teacher.

The book also has me thinking about my shock after reading the sexual interpretations of Georgia O’Keefe’s work. Why, I wondered was it necessary to examine the artist and her work so intimately? Could the paintings of flowers, so advanced as portraits, be enough? The botanist will learn from Mary Delany’s work. I cannot question the author too much because of her book design. It is amazing that the works have survived. Still, as I am only halfway through, there is enough for the artist’s eye.

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Power Plant, Harlem by Aaron Douglas. Oil. 1939.

Power Plant, Harlem by Aaron Douglas. Oil. 1939. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From December 14, 2008

“On a Treasure Hunt for Artworks Stashed among Roomfuls of Books”

Source: NY Times

New York University Fales Library devoted to the novel and New York writing.

Elmer Babst Library artists collection  – 70 Washington SQ. South

New Deal’s WPA, Queens Borough Public Libraries


“A loftier group of four murals, “Aspects of Negro Life”(1934) by Aaron Douglas – also   painted under a federal program – hangs in the main reading room of its New York Public Library‘s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. With their almost silhouetted figures orchestrated in clever geometricized arrangements, the murals trace the origins of black culture in Africa and its survival through slavery, lynching and urbanization in the United States.”

Who knew?

Aaron Douglas was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance  (Aaron Douglas came Nashville to head the art department at Fisk University. His murals in the Administration building have been restored.)

African artists who were revered:

Olowe of Ise (circa 1875 – 1938)

Akati Akpele Kendo of Yoruba court – 19th century

Current show:

Bill Traylor (1854-1947) was an African American artist from Chattanooga. His work is now on view  at the Frist Visual Arts Center, Nashville. (through May 25)

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"I Have A Dream"

Dr. M. L. King, Painting (partial) by B. W. Harwell

When Dr. King came to Chicago for marches in Cicero, Illinois and other parts of the city, Dr. King was often met with threats and actual violence. Even when he was the target, others were endangered.

In addition to his  work, he also met with the Chicago Urban League staff.  City leaders and other influential members of the community sat down with him and his staff to talk strategy.
On one such occasion, he was asked to decide what the next step would be.

My husband was on the Urban League staff and in that meeting. Knowing that I had  known Dr. King, he told me of the long silence in the room while waiting for a response.

When he spoke, King said,”I cannot say what the next move should be. God is not speaking to me now.”

“Anyone doubting Dr. King was convinced after he spoke.” ( a contemporaneous report by John S. Harwell, 1930-2010)

We Remember, We honor

A bust of Dr. King is in the Capital Rotunda and a statue (see image) on the Washington Mall was unveiled a few months ago. His birthday has been designated a National Holiday.

Dr. Martin Luther King

Image via Wikipedia

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Reading List

English: Ernest Hemingway with American writer...

Image via Wikipedia

Genet, A Biography of Janet Flanner by Brenda Wineapple (1989)

A great read! This easy to read biography is of the woman who wrote for 50 years as the Paris correspondent for New Yorker magazine.

She first went to Paris in 1921. Her observations of  her times included the Second world War.

She asked: “When I die, let it not be said I wrote for the New Yorker for fifty years. Let it be said that once I stood by a friend.”

Despite her admonition, she is remembered for her ‘Letters from Paris’ as well as her personal friendships with writers and artists who were also ex-pats.

Alice Dunbar Nelson

Image via Wikipedia

Give Us Each Day, the Diary of Alice Dunbar-Nelson, edited by Gloria T. Hull (1984)

Clouding her own work as a poet and speaker, Alice Dunbar-Nelson lived in the shadow of her first husband.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was acclaimed as the ‘first famous African American poet.’  She most often was asked to speak about him and to recite his poems.

While it is often tedious to follow a diary, this is edited to keep the reader interested in what happens next. The introduction by the editor is most informative.

Like Janet Flanner, Dunbar-Nelson associated with writers and other artists, was on the fringe of the Harlem Renaissance and fought with the ‘injustices’ of her day.

Money was always an issue for her. She struggled through the Depression years to keep her extended family afloat and to assist her husband in his dreams to get a political appointment.

The book covers years important for the country and for the financial elevation of African Americans. She travelled repeatedly to make speeches. This caused her at times to use her identity as a white person to get better accommodations.

Despite these setbacks, Dunbar-Nelson is seen as devoted to her family and her writing.

These two women present interesting contrasts in their choices and the circumstances of their lives.


Dr. Robert Farris Thompson attended a  Studio Museum in Harlem forum on October 20, 2011. The interview is posted on the Museum website. Dr. Thompson is a professor at Yale University and famous for his work in African art. His recent book,  Aesthetic of the Cool: Afro-Atlantic Art and Music builds on his research.

The interviewer was Dr. Lowery Stokes. She was a former president of the museum.


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The Bell Jar

William Tolliver and Sylvia Plath had nothing in common except being featured here. He was an African American artist and she an honored and tragic poet. They would never have met socially. Still their talents have influenced painters and writers
long past their lives.

Tolliver, a self-educated and self-taught artist, was a Southerner. Plath was a Northerner, well-educated, who lived part of her life in England.

They are paired together by being written about and being on the internet. While Tolliver was a painter, Plath did pen and ink drawings in addition to writing poetry. Many will be familiar with Plath’s published works, including The Bell Jar.

Those unfamiliar with Tolliver’s use of color and design can find his paintings on the following post. Two limited edition books of his works are for sale.


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Sculpture in Nashville

Dragon Park”

Pedro D. Silva, sculptor came to Nashville, TN  to erect a large sculpture in Fannie Dees Park. He worked with community people of all ages to create mosaic tiles. When they were put together they formed a very large sea serpent. It is fondly called the Dragon or “Dragon Park.”

The TN Arts Commission received a grant in 1980 from the U.S. Dept. of Education (ESSA) to provide artists in the schools. The first artist hired was Mr. Silva who worked with the Eakin Elementary School children and staff.  The Fannie Dees Park was  conveniently adjacent to the school permitting him to accept the challenge. (more…)

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