Diverse representation and the arts

Diversity and inclusivity are issues that art commonly addresses, but they are not as visible in the art world as many people would like. Many times the most famous artists were white and male, while talented female and minority artists were swept under the rug. The David Owsley Museum of Art has a broad collection of artists of various ethnic backgrounds as well as artists that represent diversity in their work. Here are just a few:

Harriet Goodhue Hosmer 

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Harriet Goodhue Hosmer, born October 9, 1830 and died February 21, 1908, was a distinguished female sculptor in America and is credited to have “led the flock” of other female sculptors. In her time period of the 19th century, women rarely had careers, especially as sculptors. They were not allowed the same art education as men because of gendered ideas about education. They were not allowed to attend classes and usually stayed home. Because of this, many times female artists created imagery and works depicting home life, usually children or scenery.

Like many of the women of this time, Hosmer was not allowed to attend art classes because working with a live model was not allowed for women. To get past this, she moved to Rome to study art and opened her own studio, paying for private sculpture lessons and taking anatomy classes.

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Hosmer’s work Mother and Child is currently on display on the 3rd floor Ball Brother’s Foundation Gallery east wing among other works done by female artists Malvina Hoffman and Bessie Potter Vonnoh.

Thom Shaw

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Thom Shaw is an African American artist that died in 2010. His work depicts issues of race, poverty, violence, and community. His wood relief prints, while seemingly pertinent to today’s societal issues, are actually over 25 years old. His images are confrontational and make the viewer really think about the issues they discuss through sharp lines and thought-provoking subject matter. Shaw studied at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and was one of the first African American artists to exhibit in the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Shaw also mentored minority students, many times inviting them into his studios and doing demonstrations. His work spoke of guns and drugs and police brutality on the black community. He helped start these discussions years before they became the polarizing discussions they are today. His prints show the ugliest parts of society in the most striking and beautiful of ways.

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Thom Shaw’s piece Alley Buffet was just taken down from the New Acquisitions show. If you missed it here is a preview. Be sure to keep an eye out for when it makes its next debut.

Robert Gwathmey

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Robert Gwathmey was a social realist painter born January 24th, 1903 and died September 21st, 1988 from Richmond, Virginia, and is recognized as the first white American artist to create distinguished depictions of black Americans. His works were very diverse and he tried to demonstrate a more realistic view of rural life in the American south. Gwathmey has always been known as a social activist, believing that art and social issues cannot be separated. He said, “I’m a social being and I don’t see how you can be an artist and be separate. Artists have eyes. You go home. You see things that are almost forgotten. It’s always shocking.”

Gwathmey’s style is very abstract and simple, somewhat reminiscent of Picasso and his cubist style of figures. He uses flat block colors and shapes and symbolic abstraction to convey the meaning of his work. The figures are two-dimensional and are often shown surrounded by stark backgrounds with linear details, giving them a powerful presence.

Gwathmey spent many long years creating art that focused on his political activism. He was very committed to civil rights and workers’ rights. His serigraph print titled Singing and Mending is on display on the third floor in the Ball Brother’s Foundation Gallery and is a powerful part of the museum’s collection.

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Our current exhibition, SHIFT challenges perceptions of reality through sculpture and includes a diverse array of artists. Check out the exhibition that runs through May 7.

Follow the museum on Instagram and Twitter @domaatbsu.

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