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Archive for the ‘African American Art’ Category

This painting reminds us that when we view a piece of artwork, we are observing life through the eyes of the artist. The artist serves as our window to study a particular culture or time period. In this piece, Palmer Hayden is making a statement about the different roles we play in life. According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Hayden’s painting tells the story of his friend whose official title is “janitor” but who also happens to be a talented painter, hence the title, “The Janitor Who Paints.”

For Baby…

This is such an interesting painting for baby. There are so many vocabulary words for your little one to practice as he or she takes a peek. When my little guy looked at this painting, we pointed out the cat, the shoes, the baby, the clock, the dress and the hat. We also played a little rhyming game with “cat” and “hat.” We only spent a couple of minutes looking at the painting together but it was fun for my son and it gave me a few precious minutes to appreciate the details of Hayden’s work.

For Mommy…

Hayden’s work is probably referring to a man who must go through the daily motions of a job he doesn’t like all the while sitting on a talent he doesn’t have the time or money to pursue.  There is a certain sadness to the painting, highlighted by the garbage can in the foreground and the brooms hanging on the wall. But even in the absolute best scenario, could a job, no matter how good, ever completely define who we are? Hayden is teaching us to look past the labels society places on individuals, a lesson we should most definitely pass along to our kids.

On a different note, this painting is reminding me of all the pictures we take as parents to capture the precious moments we spend with our babies. It is so heartwarming to see the mother in this painting all dressed up and beaming with pride. She literally lights up the painting. I wonder if she’ll remember any of the other details, such as the sleeping cat and her husband’s gaze, when she’s looking back on this moment. Maybe Hayden will inspire us, as we look back through our albums, to look off the “canvas” and remember all the details that didn’t make it into our pictures.


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Monthly Theme: Mother and Child

Weekly Content: African American Art & Poetry

Daily Subject: Poetry

Our next poet’s work gives voice to the artwork we observed last week. Please click on the link below to read “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes.

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.

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For Baby…

It seems like the mother in the poem is talking to a grown child. However, after thinking about it, I thought it would be a good read for any age group. One of the most important skills in becoming an avid reader is understanding the importance of showing emotion in your voice as you read. This poem is very powerful and will have you bursting with emotion as you read it to your baby. I truly believe that fundamental reading skills can be shaped even before a child can actually read (or talk). I love hearing my 1 year old “reading” his books. I watch as he flips through the pages (often upside down) imitating the intonations he hears when I read to him. Reading to your baby with almost exaggerated expression will teach him/her that changing the pitch and tone of your voice has meaning.

For Mommy…

A successful poet and writer in the 1920s through the 1960s, Hughes’ poetry chronicles the foundations and hardships of the civil rights movement. A social activist, Hughes was determined to use his work to showcase the life of the average African American. Take a peek at his biography at the Poetry Foundation to see how his work caused controversy with other prominent African American figures of his time.

“Mother to Son” reminds me of the concept of genetic memory. I know there is much controversy over whether such a concept exists, but, more specifically, I’m referring to the way in which parents pass along their own life experiences to their children. I’m thinking of that quote, usually attributed to Sir Isaac Newton,  that we are “standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isn’t our job as parents to impart our understanding and experiences of the world to our children?

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Monthly Theme: Mother and Child

Weekly Content: African American Art

Daily Subject: Sculpture

Elizabeth Catlett (see Tuesday’s post) found her true passion in sculpture.  In her 2003 interview with Sculpture Magazine she is quoted as saying her interest lies in “using forms to express some kind of feeling.” The next work of art does just that.

Elizabeth Catlett "Standing Mother and Child," 1978, Bronze sculpture with bronze patina, 16 1/2 H x 4 1/4 W x 3 1/2 D inches/Copyright Elizabeth Catlett/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. http://www.granthill.com/ghc/

For Baby…

Isn’t it just the best feeling to snuggle up with your baby? As wiggly and active as babies can be, we can all appreciate those precious cozy moments.  Cuddling with your little one helps your baby feel safe and secure.  Show baby this sculpture and talk about how much you love holding him or her in your arms.

For Mommy…

The mother in this sculpture seems to be soaking up the incredible feeling of snuggling with her baby. She has this look of pure bliss on her face. I’m in awe of Catlett’s ability to convey such intense emotion through sculpture. The mother and baby seem as though they are a unified form. Isn’t that the meaning of a true bond, that we give a part of ourselves to our children and that a part of our children becomes a part of who we are?

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Monthly Theme: Mother and Child

Weekly Content: African American Art

Daily Subject: Poetry

If Catlett’s work teaches us the power of the image (see yesterday’s post), our next poet teaches us the power of the word. Maya Angelou continues to be one of the most inspirational female figures of our time. There is no end to her accomplishments. Click on the following link to read Angelou’s poem “Woman Work.”

http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/woman-work/

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For Baby…

As stated in earlier posts, babies thrive in the beauty and magnificence of nature. When reading this poem to baby, you may want to start at the second stanza. This second part seems as though it should be sung. Have fun using your voice to express the power of the words!

For Mommy…
The historical background of this poem adds to its significance and importance as part of our country’s collective memory. I believe the poem was first published in the 70s but it seems to point to an earlier period. On some small level, however, I feel that even the modern-day mama can relate. Rocking my little one to sleep last night, I was going over my list of to-dos. They seemed endless. Then, out of nowhere, I hear this beautiful choir singing. No, I wasn’t hallucinating (although I was a little nervous at first). There is actually a church behind our apartment building where, I guess, this very talented choir was practicing. It made me take a pause in my endless mantra of to-dos and appreciate the beauty of what I was doing, rocking my beautiful baby boy to sleep. The experience reminded me of Angelou’s poem. The first stanza is basically a list of to-dos. To me, it doesn’t even seem that there is a tone of complaining but more of a simple recitation of all there is to do. In the second part of the poem, there seems to be a shift in consciousness. The imagery focuses on nature, which always tends to have a calming effect. How can we be inspired by Angelou’s poem to seek the calm amidst the chaos of our hectic lives?

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Monthly Theme:  Mother and Child

Weekly Content:  African American Art

Daily Subject: Art History


 “Art is communication.”  This statement made by American born artist Elizabeth Catlett during a 2003 interview with Sculpture Magazine is a perfect introduction to this next work of art. Catlett’s artwork is infused with a passion to evoke social awareness and change. A practicing artist at the peak of the Civil Rights Movement, Catlett’s artwork points to the strength and resilience of the African American people, specifically African American women.   

 

Mother and Child, 1944
Elizabeth Catlett (Mexican, born United States, 1915), Lithograph, Sheet: 12 3/8 x 9 3/8 in.; image: 7 3/4 x 5 3/4 in., Gift of Reba and Dave Williams, 1999, http://www.metmuseum.org

For Baby…

Describe to your baby what you feel this piece of art is communicating. Your little one is of course too young to understand the true emotion of this work, however, he or she does understand what it’s like to feel safe in mama’s arms. 

For Mommy…

This work of art truly speaks volumes.  The mother in this image embodies the complex duality of motherhood: she is simultaneously powerful and gentle. She cradles her baby as though she’ll protect him forever. The look on her face, however, seems to tell us that she fears the day she’ll have to let him go. How does historical context add to the meaning and depth of this piece?  


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