Looking at Art and Racism: Changing people's belief of the world using Art, Series One Day 7




    Series One, Day 7

"Realization" by Augusta SavageAugusta Savage was born in 1892, as one of fourteen children in

Florida to a very poor family. It is known that one of her first sculptures as a child was a duckling family,

which she made out of natural clay found in her hometown and would most likely have been her toy.

Her life was not an easy one and as an African American woman, who left her children with her parents

to pursue her beloved art, in 1920, it never could be. It is said she arrived in Harlem with less than five

dollars in her pocket! What belief in self, what passion drove her to make such a risky move!

Augusta Savage was a major influence in the Black Harlem Renaissance. She taught some of its greats

including Jacob Lawrence, Norman Lewis, and Gwendolyn Knight.

There are three reasons why she is not remembered today. They are Poverty, racism, and the fact that she

was a woman. When you look at her incredible work that pours with passion and meaning from the two-

dimensional page and you realize that most of her work was destroyed because she could not afford to

store it or materials like bronze casting to preserve it. That is the main reason this woman was never truly

recognized! You wonder about the impact and the form you are missing because you cannot see it three-

dimensionally? You also mourn the lasting loss of her actual work, in its original form to future societies!

I was happy to hear contemporary artist Bisa Butler mention Savage as one of her influences when

talking about her own work that is on display at the Katonah Museum of Art in NY. Bisa still talks of the

difficulties she faces as an African American woman in the arts, and how she looks at African American

artists who have found a way through, as mentors to help her do the

same. What was Savage saying to us in her work?

In "Realization" the self- portrait woman is the central figure in this sculpture. The semi-clad female

clung to at the knee, by the muscular and taller male that seems anguished almost vulnerable /childlike at

her knee. He is literally stripped bare, Her expression is resigned. What was Savage saying in this work?

What was her "Realization" or were there many?! Was this strong woman by 1938, already realizing the

limitations on her dream?
She had come with such optimism from the south in 1920, escaping segregation, having an opportunity to

express her art! Was the hope and excitement of the Harlem Rennaissance during the Great Depression,

showing cracks that were hard to ignore?
Augusta Savage first made headlines as the" Negress Denied Entry to French Art School." She applied

for a scholarship offered by the French government to study at a school in Fontainebleu, near Paris, But s

he was rejected by the white Americans that handled her application. Not because of her lack of talent or

the message that she sort to share, but simply because she was black and it might offend the other white

female applicants! How wrong is it, that a woman with such talent, who worked as a domestic, to support

her skill, should be rejected to a woman that painted a flower or a tree to ease her boredom while others

did her work?!

But like many black women, she was a woman of strength and determination and got scholarships from

the Carnegie Foundation and the Rosenwald foundations in 1929 to France, Germany, and Belgium. She

left just months before the crashing of the stock market and returned, three years later to an America that

was gripped by the Great Depression.
It seems the fight for her own voice, no longer mattered in the world she found herself in. She put most

of her energies into promoting others in her Harlem world. She opened her own art school and is quoted

as saying" If I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess...Then my

monument will be their work." What a tragedy the world destroyed her so!

So when we look at" Realization" there are so many messages there. The anguish on the man's face in

contrast to the resigned expression on her own. Was her "realization" then as a mother, daughter, wife,

she must always feel the Black man's pain and her own? For though the chains are gone, there was no

slavery, there was no obvious segregation or lynching of the South, the African American man is forever

held back, by a white society that forever keeps him in his place! A white society that is so afraid to let a

man with darker skin shine, and prosper and offer the skills God gave him, and so presents obstacles at

every turn!
How have we evolved from this time? What " Realization's " can we learn from this? How is it different

for the African American woman today! How is it fair that the African American mother, daughter, wife

still feels the pain of racism for herself and for the Black American man, and worries at night if he will

come home alive, or whether he will be incarcerated without reason! This, while White women fret about

what they should wear, or when they will get toilet paper because of the Coronavirus! How far have we

moved from Rosseau's Statement" Man is born free but is everywhere in chains," when we consider

poverty, racism, and sexism? Could Biden really lose the election if he chooses a woman of color, as his

vice president, as an 89-year-old woman, I know fears? Since I wrote this he has chosen Kamala Harris

as his running mate, a good choice I feel!

When will we finally come to the "Realization" that this is not right, that racism in all its forms is

WRONG! But finally, when will we come to the "Realization" that it is all of us; EACH INDIVIDUAL

that must take the steps to end it!


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