Thanks to a heads up from artist Bianca Dorsey, I was among the many well-wishers on hand at a reception for nonagenarian sculptor Elizabeth Catlett at the June Kelly Gallery last week. It was my absolute pleasure –and honor –to join the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to the esteemed artist, who at 94 is still producing work in various media from printmaking to sculpture of warm woods, patinated bronze, red onyx and black marble. Wearing vibrant magenta silk dupioni, she graciously received guests with a radiance that reflects a life lived embracing her passion for creation and arts education.
Ms. Catlett receives a cupcake from gallerist June Kelly.
The native Washingtonian’s impressive body of work was first publicly lauded when in 1940 her figurative limestone piece, Mother and Child won first prize in sculpture at the American Negro Exposition in Chicago. Moving to Mexico (where she still resides much of the time) in the late 1940’s, she married Mexican artist Francisco Mora and became a Mexican citizen, yet her work strongly celebrates African-American identity and remains resonant and relevant into her seventh decade of creating art.
Bather, 2009 Mahogany
Elizabeth Catlett, Recent Sculpture (2006-2009) is currently on view through Tuesday, May 2 2009.
June Kelly Gallery
591 Broadway (between Houston and Prince)
212 226 1660
Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 6pm.