As a way to encourage and continue adopting more cultural and racial inclusiveness into my life and into the lives of my dear loyal supporters, I am going to make a habit of featuring a diverse collection of historic and contemporary artists here on my Inspo Saturdays Artist Features. As I'm sure you can tell by my own recent artwork, I have been focusing on celebrating beautiful women of a variety of heritages through my Bohemian Goddess oil paintings and Fabulous Hair Series drawings, so appreciating artists from a variety of cultural backgrounds goes hand-in-hand with the goals of my work's impact.
So in that vein of inclusive positivity, today's post is actually about a woman I just learned about from a logo feature on Google and became instantly impressed with, Edmonia Lewis (1844-1907). Not only was she an incredibly talented classically trained marble sculptor, but she made a name for herself when women were largely ignored in the professional art world, and acceptance of women of color was virtually nonexistent in the Western art world.
Edmonia was part Native American and part African American, so the deeply heartwrenching past of both of her heritage lines made tremendous impressions on her work as she matured. Growing up, Edmonia was actually known 'Wildfire' until she was twelve years old, living as an orphan in her late mother's Chippewa tribe. Although she had difficulty finding tutelage, Edmonia persevered in getting an education and eventually wound up in Boston in the workshop of a marble bust sculptor who had a number of Abolitionist patrons and decided to take her on as a student and help her sell her first few small pieces.
Definitely check out [this] article for more very interesting detail of Edmonia's struggles and artistic heroism both in the US and in Europe.
After studying in Boston, Edmonia traveled through Europe and settled in Rome where she could study the great Renaissance masters and have access to high quality marble. She worked incredibly hard to excel at her craft and create a name for herself, and because of that, Edmonia was recognized with high esteem during much of her life. Now her works reside in some of the best art collections in the world, such as the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
I absolutely love hearing stories about other creatives, especially women, who find ways to make a living and gain respect by following their passion, creating from the heart, and always working "harder than the next guy!" Those are the winning features I see time and again in success stories like Edmonia's, who I will certainly be emulating in my own practice!
Are there any artists that you are inspired by whose rise to fame was particularly harrowing or oppressive? Please share them with me in the comments, I love learning about determined creators!
originally posted: February 4, 2017