Overlooked No More: Edmonia Lewis, Sculptor of Worldwide Acclaim

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, United States, Women on 2018-07-29 23:35Z by Steven

Overlooked No More: Edmonia Lewis, Sculptor of Worldwide Acclaim

The New York Times

Penelope Green

The 19th century sculptor Edmonia Lewis. The intense focus on her race both frustrated her and fueled her ambition.
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum

As an artist she transcended constraints, and as a woman of color, she confronted a society that wished to categorize her.

Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. With Overlooked, we’re adding the stories of remarkable people whose deaths went unreported in The Times.

It was the middle of the 19th century, and Edmonia Lewis, part West Indian, part Chippewa, had the audacity to be an artist. It was risky enough for a free woman of color to pursue such a career, but to claim marble as her medium was to tilt at the Victorian conventions of the time, which decreed gentler aesthetic forms for the second sex, like poetry or painting.

Among the first black sculptors known to achieve widespread international fame, Lewis was raised Catholic, educated at Oberlin College in Ohio and mentored by abolitionists in Boston. She lived much of her life in Rome, sailing to Europe in 1865 and joining a community of American sculptors there who included female artists derided by the author Henry James as “a white marmorean flock.”…

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Weeding Out the Riffraff

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2013-07-21 19:39Z by Steven

Weeding Out the Riffraff

The New York Times
Home & Garden

Penelope Green, Editor

At Home With Sheila Bridges

Sheila Bridges played the cancer card only once, when a state trooper stopped her for speeding on the Taconic Parkway.

At the time, Ms. Bridges, the interior designer Time magazine once celebrated as one of America’s best talents, was already notable for her race (as a black woman in a very white field, she stood out), her distinctive design style (a sensual and witty classicism) and her clients (music moguls like Andre Harrell, best-sellers like Tom Clancy and, famously, Bill Clinton). But she was not used to getting so much attention for her hair, or lack thereof.

In 2004, Ms. Bridges, now 49, was at a career apogee, juggling a television show, product lines, type-A suitors and high-maintenance clients, when her hair began to fall out. The diagnosis was alopecia, an autoimmune disorder. And as she recounts in “The Bald Mermaid,” her sharply told memoir, out this month from Pointed Leaf Press, rather than struggle with wigs or weaves, she decided to shave her head…

…Which takes us back to the speeding ticket Ms. Bridges dodged on the Taconic a few years ago. There she was, as she put it, “driving while black” in a Range Rover, when she was pulled over. While she steeled herself for the inevitable “Whose car is this?” challenge from the trooper, she noted his confusion at her baldness. When he asked where she was going in such hurry, she answered honestly that she had an appointment at Columbia University Medical Center (it was a dentist’s appointment, but she didn’t mention that). And in a response that had become frustratingly familiar since she shaved her head, the officer clocked her as a cancer patient and waved her on.

It is a rare day, Ms. Bridges said wryly, that she is not mistaken for some sort of patient. Last month, in line at the post office, a man tapped her on the shoulder. “I thought, ‘Here it comes,’ ” she recalled. “Then he asks me when I’m having kidney dialysis. To constantly have to engage in conversations about my appearance is exhausting. A natural boundary is erased when you don’t have hair. I was in a restaurant and a guy reached out and put both his hands on my head. I realize I’m a trigger for other people’s fears, of mortality, losing a loved one. But it creates all these other issues. I think I look great, and a man asks me if I’m having dialysis. Is that how men see me? No wonder I’m single.”

Ms. Bridges is a lively memoirist, habituated since childhood to navigating a familiar sea of misconceptions and prejudices with a tart wit and the “double consciousness,” to quote W. E. B. Du Bois, worn by so many African-Americans.

Although she grew up in Philadelphia, the child of a dentist and a teacher (a k a “the black girl” in her small Quaker school), she was nonetheless required to arrive at Brown University her freshman year a week early to attend its Third World Transition Program. There was a plus: because she moved in before her roommate, she was able to snag the bigger closet. “All the better,” she writes with characteristic humor, “to hang my Masai headdress and lion’s tooth necklace right next to my collection of polo shirts from Saks.”

That same week, she was also asked to join a biracial support group. (In those days, she was feathering her light brown hair in homage to Farrah Fawcett). “Biracial? I’d never even heard the word before,” she writes. “Around Philly, we adhered to the one drop rule when it came to determining race. Or as my mother used to say, jokingly, ‘It doesn’t matter how much milk you put into your coffee. Coffee with milk is still coffee.’ ”…

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