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Article

Jenifer P. Borum

(b Emelle, AL, Sept 10, 1928; d McCalla, AL, Jan 25, 2016).

African American painter and sculptor. Dial was born into poverty and left school at age nine to work various jobs, including fieldwork. At age ten, his mother gave up Thornton and his half-brother Arthur to be raised by their great-grandmother. Upon her death they were taken in by their aunt for two years, and then given to their great-aunt, Sarah Dial Lockett, in Bessemer, AL.

Throughout most of his life, Dial worked as a farmer, a gardener, a bricklayer, and a construction worker. He worked for the Bessemer Water Works for 13 years and the Pullman Standard for nearly 30 years. Dial’s labor gave him a great many skills that he would later apply to making artwork. He was handy with found objects and materials, often making cemetery decorations, as well as for his yard—both of which should be considered in the context of vernacular signifying practices within the African diaspora. Unfortunately, he buried or destroyed much of his early mixed-media yard work, as it often carried messages of social protest and could have been a source of trouble for him and his family. The practice of destroying his work changed when he met his future patron, the Atlanta collector Bill Arnett, in ...

Article

Edward Hanfling

(b Hastings, March 21, 1930; d New Plymouth, Dec 8, 2011).

New Zealand sculptor, painter, printmaker, and installation artist. His art primarily involves assemblage, often with an eye to colour relationships; it also incorporates diverse sources including American modernism, African, and Asian art. Driver had little formal training and worked as a dental technician before he began sculpting with wood, clay, and dental plaster during the 1950s. Between 1960 and 1964 he produced assemblages and collages reminiscent of Robert Rauschenberg, though Driver was not aware of the American’s work then (e.g. Large Brass). In the United States from March to August 1965, he developed an interest in Post-painterly Abstraction as well as in Jasper Johns’s works. References to New York are manifest in his mixed-media wall relief La Guardia 2 (1966; Auckland, A.G.). The Painted Reliefs (1970–74) with their horizontal panels and strips of varying width and depth, mostly painted but sometimes aluminium, indicate the impact of American abstraction, notably that of Kenneth Noland. ...

Article

Sandra Sider

Folk art, or vernacular art (specific to a group or place), developed in Colonial America out of necessity when individual households produced most of the utilitarian objects required for daily life. Using traditional tools and techniques, many of these makers created pieces in which aesthetics came to play a substantial role, through form, ornamentation, or both. In some groups, notably the Shakers, function was emphasized, with pure form evoking an aesthetic and spiritual response. Religious beliefs have informed American folk art, such as the saints and other figures (Santos) carved and painted by Catholic settlers in the Southwest as early as 1700. Although the majority of folk art is now anonymous, the oeuvre of numerous individual artists can be determined by their distinctive styles or marks. Folk art is often considered within the field of ‘material culture’, with an emphasis on the object’s context rather than its creator. Most American folk art falls within three categories: painting and cut paper, textiles and fibre, and three-dimensional work such as furniture, carvings, metalwork, ceramics, and outdoor installations....

Article

Julia Robinson

(b Valrico, FL, 1930).

American performance artist and sculptor. Hay started out in the performance scene at Judson Memorial Church in downtown New York City in the early 1960s. He arrived in New York from Florida in 1959, after studying at the Florida State University (1953–8). His wife, the dancer Deborah Hay, was a key figure in the Judson Dance Theater, launched in the summer of 1962, and Alex Hay performed in many of its productions. In the early 1960s he assisted Robert Rauschenberg on set designs for Merce Cunningham, and danced with him with roller-skates and parachutes in Rauschenberg’s now famous performance piece Pelican (1963). After these collaborations, Hay was invited to participate in 9 Evenings: Theater & Engineering at New York’s 69th Regiment Armory (fall 1966). This initiative, conceived by Rauschenberg with critical contributions from the engineer Billy Klüver, was an idealistic effort to pair artists with engineers, to merge art and new technologies. That project evolved into ...

Article

G. Lola Worthington

(b Buffalo, NY, 1950).

Tuscarora artist, writer, educator, and museum director. Hill studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1968–70), and was awarded a Master of Arts degree from SUNY, Buffalo, NY (1980).

Intrigued with Seneca General Ely Parker (General Grant’s Military Secretary), Hill investigated Parker’s life, which took him to Washington, DC, for two years. Hill began to identify with Parker’s experience and realized he would devote himself to enlightening others about Native American arts, knowledge, education, and culture.

Hill was skilled in painting, photography, carving, beading, and basket weaving, and many of these works are located at the Canadian Museum of Civilizations, Quebec; the Woodland Indian Cultural Center, Brantford, Ontario; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, OK; the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Washington, DC; and the Seneca Iroquois National Museum, Salamanca, NY. He taught at McMaster University, Mohawk College, Six Nations Polytechnic, and SUNY at Buffalo. Hill developed a culturally based Seneca Language curriculum and training models for teaching....

Article

G. Lola Worthington

[Gwe-la-yo-gwe-la-gya-lis]

(b Alert Bay, BC, Canada, 1950).

Kwakwaka’wakw woodcarver. Hunt’s maternal grandfather, Mungo Martin (Kwa-giulth; 1879–1962), was one of the last living carvers on northern Vancouver Island, founder of the Thunderbird Park program in Victoria and one of the first to formulate Kwakwaka’wakw sculptural and painting styles. His paternal father, George Hunt, was an ethnologist, while his brothers, Tony and Stanley, also worked as woodcarvers.

Raised in Victoria British Columbia, and the first to finish high school, his encouraging teacher, who respected his culture, let him carve. Under his father, he became an apprentice in the Carving Program at Thunderbird Park, next to the British Columbia Provincial Museum.

At 21, Hunt assumed the title of Chief Carver at Thunderbird Park, a post held for 12 years. Resigning in 1986, Hunt began his independent artistic career. He is the first Native artist inducted into the Order of British Columbia, 1991, and in 1994 became a member of the Order of Canada. The University of Victoria awarded him an honorary doctorate in ...

Article

Deborah A. Middleton

(Dickey)

(b Jackson, FL, 1925; d East Hampton, NY, March 4, 2015).

American sculptor. King’s figurative human representations are recognized for their often humorous character models, which blend smooth and rough surfaces to form a unique signature style. King’s sculptures are identified as Pop art and abstraction, and are represented by a diverse range of scales from the miniature to the monumental and executed with a versatile range of media, from clay to ceramics, wood, and welded or bent metals. His early influences were Isamu Noguchi and Elie Nadelman.

King attended the University of Florida between 1942–4, and moved to New York in 1945 to study at Cooper Union where he graduated in 1948 and continued studies in art at the Brooklyn Museum Art School in New York. King traveled to Europe on a Fulbright Grant to study in Rome Italy (1949–50) and in London at the Central School (1952). King’s first solo exhibition of sculpture was in ...

Article

Tom Williams

(b Long Beach, CA, Jan 1, 1941).

American sculptor and installation artist. He studied architecture and mathematics at California State University and art at the Los Angeles College of Art and Design in 1963 before going on to receive a BFA in 1964 and an MFA in 1967 from the Otis Art Institute of Los Angeles County. He is often regarded as a key contributor to the development of Post-minimalism and Process art during late 1960s, and he is sometimes credited with more or less inventing the so-called ‘scatter piece’ as a form in contemporary art.

Le Va became widely celebrated for a series of scatter pieces or ‘distributions’, to use his preferred term, that he began in 1966 while still a graduate student at the Otis Art Institute. In these pieces, he deposited a heterogeneous array of materials into loosely configured piles on the gallery floor. Many of these early works featured cut pieces of canvas or felt that he mixed in with other materials such as scraps of wood, puzzle pieces, lengths of string and ball bearings. These pieces refused both the monumentality and the singularity of modernist sculpture, and although these works were carefully planned, they nevertheless introduced an element of chance into the completed object because they could never be realized in exactly the same way twice. Through this element of chance, and through their use of both multiplicity and horizontality, these pieces seemed to extend the implications of Jackson Pollock’s paintings into sculptural practice. In this sense, these works marked a shift in emphasis from the discrete sculptural product to the process and conditions of display. In 1969–70 pieces such as ...

Article

Annie Dell’Aria

(b Santurce, Puerto Rico, Jun 10, 1955).

American sculptor and installation artist. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Osorio came to New York in 1975 and earned a BSc in sociology from Lehman College, Bronx, in 1978. He then earned an MA in art education from Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1985. Osorio spent much of his early years in New York as a social worker in Puerto Rican neighborhoods in the South Bronx, an experience that would inform both his aesthetic style and his artistic involvement with Latin American communities.

Osorio worked primarily in Assemblage sculpture, which led to more elaborate and ornate multimedia installations. From the mid-1980s, his practice was characterized by an overabundance of kitschy objects and a keen eye for the intricacies of Nuyorican (New York–Puerto Rican) material culture and family life. In 1985, a turning point in his stylistic development, he created La Bicicleta (The Bicycle) (New York, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts), which references the vehicular decoration of street peddlers in Puerto Rico in the 1950s and 1960s. This hanging bicycle covered with flowers, ribbons, plastic trees, Kewpie dolls, and many other cheap adornments was rendered useless as a mode of transportation and made entirely sculptural. Osorio’s later installations maintained this attention to vernacular decoration, but were more narrative in their investigation of urban Latino communities. For the ...

Article

Michelle Yun

(b Wichita, KS, 1952).

American sculptor. Otterness moved to New York in 1970 to study at the Art Students League. He participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program in 1973 and in 1977 he joined the New York based Collaborative Projects (Colab) as a founding member. Otterness is best known for his playful, figurative cast bronze sculptures and his belief that art gains value through public engagement. Between 1978–82 he created a series of cast Hydrocal (fiberglass and concrete) figures inspired by the statuettes found in Latin American botánicas (stores selling folk medicine, perfumes and religious statuettes, rosaries and candles). These diminutive spoofs on historic monuments were set on marble bases and inexpensively sold as “hand-produced collector’s items.” Continuing on this populist track, in 1982 he built a modular plaster frieze in the form of cornice molding that was sold by the foot. These early works serve as important precursors for the artist’s longstanding commitment to public art. In ...

Article

H. Alexander Rich

(b Honolulu, HI, 1966).

American video artist and sculptor. Pfeiffer exploited the latest in computer and video technology to examine the overwhelming power of mass media. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in printmaking from the San Francisco Art Institute (1987) and his Master of Fine Arts from Hunter College in New York (1994). He participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (1997–8) and, among his many prizes and fellowships, was awarded the Whitney Museum’s Bucksbaum Award (2000).

Pfeiffer was born in Honolulu and grew up primarily in the Philippines but moved to the continental United States to pursue a career as an artist. Although he began producing his art in New York City in 1990, it was not until his breakthrough showing at the 2000 Whitney Museum Biennial that Pfeiffer was officially “discovered” by the art world. Even in his earliest works, he demonstrated a keen eye for the contradictions inherent in a world both dominated by celebrity culture and in which images define the ways people look at and interact with each other. Although photography, video and computers ostensibly connect people and transmit information as directly as possible, Pfeiffer dedicated his art to upturning these faulty assumptions about the veracity of what we see. Again and again, His work reveals his fascination with the ways in which the human image can be conveyed, distorted and fetishized through the mass media....

Article

Harriet F. Senie

Objects created to remind viewers of specific individuals or events (see also Public monument). At its inception, the United States faced fundamental questions of what the new nation should commemorate and what forms would be appropriate for its new form of government: democracy. Primary subjects were presidents as well as military leaders and wars that functioned as expressions of national values. Often realized long after their subject had died or ended, monuments frequently reflected the time in which they were actually built. As societal values changed, so did the form and emphasis of monuments.

National memorials to the most influential presidents, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt include an obelisk, a sculpture housed in a temple and a large complex defined by a series of outdoor spaces dedicated to key aspects of a presidency.

Initially there were no American sculptors capable of realizing a monumental project to George Washington (...

Article

Jacqueline Francis

(b Washington, DC, May 23, 1941).

American sculptor, printmaker, landscape designer and teacher. The eldest child of seven children born to Reginald Puryear, a postal worker, and Martina Puryear, a schoolteacher, Puryear majored in art at the Catholic University of America. He studied painting with Nell B. Sonneman and Franz Kline, while Robert Motherwell and Wyeth family were among the artists he admired. Puryear’s work earned him notice while he was still in college: his paintings were favorably reviewed in a group exhibition at Washington’s Adams-Morgan Gallery in 1962 and he won the Baltimore Museum of Art Purchase Prize for work displayed at that venue in 1963.

After earning his BA in art in 1963, Puryear joined the Peace Corps and taught English, French and biology in a rural Sierra Leone school from 1964 to 1966. He studied joinery and wood carving with local artists and made woodcuts and figure drawings of his environment and the people he encountered....

Article

Santos  

James Cordova and Claire Farago

Term that refers to handmade paintings and sculptures of Christian holy figures, crafted by artists from the Hispanic and Lusophone Americas. The term first came into widespread use in early 20th-century New Mexico among English-speaking art collectors to convey a sense of cultural authenticity. Throughout the Americas, the term imagenes occurs most frequently in Spanish historical documents. Santos are usually painted on wood panels (retablos) or carved and painted in the round (bultos). Reredos, or altarpieces, often combine multiple retablos and bultos within a multi-level architectural framework.

European Christian imagery was circulated widely through the Spanish viceroyalties in the form of paintings, sculptures, and prints, the majority of which were produced in metropolitan centres such as Mexico City, Antigua, Lima, and Puebla, where European- and American-born artists established guilds and workshops. These became important sources upon which local artists elsewhere based their own traditions of religious image-making using locally available materials such as buffalo hides, vegetal dyes, mineral pigments, and yucca fibres, commonly employed by native artists long before European contact....

Article

Michelle Yun

(b New York, NY, Dec 25, 1944).

American sculptor, draftsman and installation artist. Saret received a BArch from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, in 1966 and subsequently studied at Hunter College in New York under Robert Morris from 1966 to 1968. In the late 1960s his work was classified as part of the “anti-form” movement, which rejected the rigidity of Minimalism in favor of creating non-figurative works that were structured in part by the inherent physical properties of the industrial materials favored by this group.

Saret’s early sculptures from the 1960s and 1970s were primarily crafted from industrial metal wire of varying thickness, though he also sometimes used rubber, wire mesh or other non-art materials. They were often suspended from the ceiling or installed directly on the ground and exuded a weightless, ephemeral quality akin to clouds or gestural drawings rendered three-dimensionally. It was around this time, in 1967, that Saret began his ongoing Gang drawings series. These gestural drawings were initially created as preliminary studies for the sculptures and were produced by the artist spontaneously grabbing a handful, or “gang,” of colored pencils, thereby integrating an element of chance to the process....

Article

Doug Singsen

(b New York, New York, 1941).

American sculptor. Shapiro received a BA in 1964 and an MA in 1969, both from New York University. From 1965 to 1967, Shapiro worked with the Peace Corps in India. While there, he saw many examples of Indian sculpture, which helped spur his decision to become an artist. In 1967, Shapiro married Amy Snider, an art educator, with whom he had a daughter, Ivy, in 1969; the couple separated in 1972. In the early 1970s, Shapiro befriended artists Elizabeth Murray and Jennifer Bartlett and gallery owner Paula Cooper, who gave Shapiro his first solo exhibition in 1970.

Shapiro’s work between 1968 and 1972 was strongly influenced by Process art , and Eva Hesse in particular, as seen in Shapiro’s Two Hands Forming (1971; artist’s col.), a circle of clay balls placed on the floor, which closely resembles Hesse’s Sequel (1967–8; Chicago, IL, A. Inst.). Other works made by Shapiro during this time included smeared and dripped paintings, nylon string sculptures and a number of metal sculptures influenced by Richard Serra....

Article

Elise Madeleine Ciregna

Stonecarving throughout American history has been utilized for various purposes: utilitarian work such as paving, roofing and hitching posts; and ornamental work, such as architectural elements, gravestones and monuments, and sculpture. America’s first professional stonecarvers were mainly trained, skilled artisans from England and Scotland. These men were often called “statuaries” because they were capable of producing highly ornamental carving and sculpture, similar to the work of trained academic sculptors. There was little call for such highly decorative work in the colonies, but as urban centers gradually formed, stone masons found plenty of work in newly emerging cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York.

In rural areas many of America’s early stonecarvers were native-born and self-taught. Their skills were most often put to use carving gravestones, which were needed in every community. Both professional and native-born stonecarvers produced beautiful, often idiosyncratic carved work. They worked in the “direct” method of carving, that is carving directly into the stone without creating a preliminary model. Botanist John Bartram designed his own stone house in Philadelphia around ...

Article

Jenifer P. Borum

(b Pittsburgh, PA, 1958).

American painter and sculptor. Raised in the working-class East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, Stout was encouraged to make art by members of her family—her maternal uncle, a painter, and her grandfather, a blues musician. As a child, she took classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art, where she was introduced to African art, a significant formative experience for Stout, who would subsequently go on to engage the vernacular language of the African Diaspora in the Americas.

Stout earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 1980. After graduation, she worked in residency at the Afro-American Artists Residency at Northeastern University in Boston. After moving to Washington, DC, in 1985, she began the ongoing practice of mixed-media assemblage that was to become her mature work. By reclaiming objects and elements from urban diasporic material culture such as root medicines, spirit writing and healing oils, Stout created assemblages and environments that effectively transformed gallery and museum spaces into liminal sites that mapped cultural crossroads—contact points between Africa and the Americas, tradition and innovation, high art and vernacular culture....

Article

Ronald J. Onorato

(b Quebec, May 11, 1944).

American sculptor of Canadian birth. Educated in Montreal and in New York City, where he attended the Brooklyn Museum Art School, Hunter College, and received a BS from New York University in 1969. Trakas created site-specific landscape installations in America and Europe from the 1970s. He has received numerous awards including NEA and Guggenheim fellowships and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Merit Award for Sculpture and has taught at Cooper Union and Yale University. Trakas moved to the USA in 1963 and since his earliest completed outdoor works, like Rock River Union (1976), he has been a leading proponent of hand-constructed environments. His work shared aspects of scale, audience participation and architectural form with such artists as Alice Aycock, Mary Miss, Richard Fleischner and Siah Armajani. They all extended the tradition of earlier, less accessible earthworks into the realm of more approachable, often urban, spaces that a viewer can engage spatially as well as understand for their symbolic and narrative content. Trakas’s own projects were primarily constructed of welded steel with wood and stone elements, sometimes recycled from the sites themselves....

Article

Doug Singsen

(b Baltimore, MD, March 16, 1921; d Washington, DC, Dec 23, 2004).

American sculptor. Truitt was raised in the town of Easton on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She received a BA in psychology from Bryn Mawr College, where she graduated cum laude in 1943. In 1947, she married James McConnell Truitt, a journalist, whose career caused the couple to relocate frequently in subsequent years.

Truitt’s artistic training began in 1945 with night classes in sculpture in Boston. She continued her studies at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Washington, DC, in 1949–50, where she studied with Alexander Giampietro (1912–2010) and befriended fellow student Kenneth Noland . In the early 1950s she also studied with Octavio Medellin (1907–99) at the Museum School in Dallas, with Peter Lipman-Wulf (1905–93) in New York City, and with Noland and Peter Blanc in Washington, DC. Throughout the 1950s, Truitt experimented with a wide variety of materials and styles in sculpture and drawing.

After living in San Francisco from ...