Feb 6. Art Minute: Elizabeth Catlett, ‘Playmates,’ from ‘For My People’

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Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915–2012), Playmates, from For My People. Color lithograph, 1992. 22 3/4 x 18 3/4 in. Gift of Dr. Elizabeth Catlett, 2006.162B. Gallery 6

Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915–2012), Playmates, from For My People. Color lithograph, 1992. 22 3/4 x 18 3/4 in. Gift of Dr. Elizabeth Catlett, 2006.162B. Gallery 6

The granddaughter of slaves, Elizabeth Catlett grew up in segregated Washington, D.C. In 1946, she was awarded a Rosenwald Foundation fellowship to study art in Mexico City, moving there permanently in 1947 and marrying Mexican artist Francisco Mura. Catlett had a strong social conscience, and throughout her long career her art not only celebrated black and brown lives, but also addressed injustices, tackling controversial issues such as lynching and racially motivated violence, the C.I.A.’s involvement in Central America, and Mexico’s discrimination against its indigenous peoples.

This image corresponds to a stanza of Margaret Walker’s poem For My People:

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama backyards playing and baptizing and preaching and doctor and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss Choomby and company…


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