Persevere and Resist: The Strong Black Women of Elizabeth Catlett
This welcome catalogue presents exciting new scholarship on the work of Mexican and American artist Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012). Accompanying an exhibition at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Persevere and Resist: The Strong Black Women of Elizabeth Catlett reconsiders her works through the lens of contemporary psychology and sociology.
Catlett was one of the most important visual chroniclers of the African American experience in the 20th century. In 1946, she was awarded the prestigious Rosenwald Fund Fellowship to travel to Mexico. Her early experiments with printmaking with the Taller de Gráfica Popular resulted in a series of 15 prints titled, The Black Woman (1946–1947) of which the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art is one of only three known American arts institutions to own a full series. In addition to her print and drawing practice, Catlett was also an accomplished sculptor working in stone, wood, and clay in her lengthy career, which spanned over six decades.
Taking The Black Woman series as a point of departure, Heather Nickels will explore Catlett’s oeuvre as illustrative of such contemporary phenomena as the “StrongBlackWoman” (SBW) trope, Afrofemcentrism, and misogynoir. Nickels will offer an alternative reading of the stances, postures, and expressions of Catlett’s women, considering the impact of intergenerational trauma, with its roots in chattel slavery, on African Americans. After examining the SBW trope and its paradoxes, she poses the question “What now?” and considers possible remedies through an examination of the ways in which Black artists have mined pain and sorrow to inform and inspire literary, performing and visual production, creating Black joy in spaces
made by and for Black women.
On view at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art from June 5 to August 29, 2021, the exhibition will feature approximately 35 prints and sculptures, fully illustrated in the catalogue. Persevere and Resist is curated by Heather Nickels, the Joyce Blackmon Curatorial Fellow of African American Art and Art of the African Diaspora at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (MBMA) in Memphis, Tennessee. This publication will also include an essay by noted Catlett expert Dr. Melanie Herzog who will explore Catlett’s life through the lens of today’s social concerns.
By Heather Nickels, with a contribution by Melanie Herzog
Softback, 250 x 200 mm
96 pages, 45 illustrations
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Tennessee
5 June – 29 August 2021
In the press
"striking, comprehensive catalog" —Daily Memphian