|Death Date: April 2, 2012
|Born in 1915, American-born, Elizabeth Catlett who creates sensuous figurative sculpture and prints on the subject of African-Americans, especially women, learned at an early stage that she would have to work around racism in order to achieve her goals. Although she was a talented student, Catlett ’s chosen college, the Carnegie Institute of Technology, rejected her. Nonetheless, she subsequently attended Howard University, graduating cum laude in 6.
Catlett chose the African-American woman as her subject while she was studying with Grant Wood at the University of Iowa. Catlett’s intense interest in the mother-and-child theme reflects her own history; her father died before her birth, so her mother and maternal grandmother raised her.
Catlett won the Rosenwald Fellowship, making it possible for her to go to Mexico in 1946 to study mural painting and printmaking. In 1947, she married the Mexican artist Francisco Mora and became an advocate for workers in her adopted country. She empathetically pictured the evils of poverty, women laboring at menial jobs, children working and caring for smaller youngsters and homeless youth.
Although men do appear in her work, most of Catlett’s sculpture represents women or mothers and children. She explains, “Because I am a woman and know how women feel sin, body and mind, I sculpt, draw, and print women, generally black women.