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Wake Up Our Souls: A Celebration of African American Artists

Press:Harry N Abrams Inc Harry N. Abrams; 1st edition (February 3, 2004)
Publication Date:2004-2
Author Name:Bolden, Tonya


This book highlights influential and important African American 20th-century artists, from those of the early part of the century who were actively discouraged from pursuing their talent, to important participants in the Harlem Renaissance to modern and contemporary artists. 
The text also includes sidebars highlighting individual pictures and creators, completing a wonderful chapter in the history of American art and in African American life and achievement.
Published in conjunction with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation's greatest repository of African American art, the book includes works by Romare Bearden, Roy DeCarava, Betye Saar, and Augusta Savage, among many others.
From Faith Ringgold's fabric interpretation of the Harlem Renaissance to Gordon Parks' celebrated 1996 photograph of Muhammad Ali, the paintings, sculptures, and photographs reproduced here reflect the rich and varied experience of African American artists in the 20th century.

About the Author

Tonya Bolden's published works include histories, novels, anthologies, and how-to and self-help books, as well as articles, reviews, and reference material for adults and youth. 
Her books have received much acclaim, including being named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association and a Book for the Teen Age by the New York Public Library.
Bolden earned her undergraduate degree at Princeton University and her master's at Columbia University.


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Comment List (Total:5)

  •     In conjunction with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation's greatest repository of African American Art, acclaimed author Tonya Bolden celebrates the many contributions of Black American Artists. In her brightly designed volume, one artist's life and work flows chronically into the other, almost seamlessly as though one took off from where the other left off, each building upon each other's style and work. In fact, each artist was somewhat of a building block for the next, as African American artists were limited as to where they could be educated; they taught each other, and through their collaboration, the lively and fascinating movement of Black American Art grew to acquire a unique place in American history.From the 17th Century, to the Harlem Renaissance, from folk artists to modern and contemporary artists, pivotal events in history and their relevant artistic movements are clearly and succinctly presented. Meet Alma Thomas who began painting in her late 60's! Read about Romare Bearden, Roy DeCarava, Betye Saar, Faith Ringgold, and Augusta Savage and their many exciting contributions of paintings, sculptures, collages, photographs, and shrines. You will be inspired to visit museums seeking their art, as I was; because of this book, I included a visit to Fisk University's Gallery, while in Nashville, Tennessee, to share their collection of African American Art with my family.A helpful glossary of artistic terms, source notes for the original quotes used, and an index complete this welcome addition to art history collections. For families, and children grades 5 and up, this book is a journey - an experience to read and return to time and time again."...great art can only be created out of love, and that no greater lover ever held a brush" writer James Baldwin about artist Beauford Delaney.

  •     I found this book spellbinding. The history of the artists is filled with the turbulence of life as a non white in a racist america. Each artist's history is compellingly told. I really couldn't put this book down. I want to explore more books by Tonya Bolden, it's author. Bravo for a magnificent book!

  •     For all but the most lavishly funded school libraries every purchase must be justified eight ways from Sunday - there is simply no fat in today's budgets. But this work from Tonya Bolden transcends justification and has marched onto the Required List of every middle school, high school, Christian school and public library - particularly the ones stretching dollars.Bolden has assembled chronologically more then 30 biographies of accomplished American visual artists from Joshua Johnson (late 1700's) to Melvin Edwards (still working). Each artist is presented with the expected data and examples of their best and/or most famous works -plus an image of the artist themselves (painting or photo). But each entry also does an excellent job of explaining their early works, their training if any, why many went to great lengths to get more training and why they decided to train with certain artists/schools. Bolden over the course of the book catches the essence of the growth of an artist - use of the materials at hand; perseverance, seeking out training (for most) and keeping the vision no matter what. Some artists had to go to France to escape prejudicial treatment in the U.S. or to move where their desired teacher-artist lived. Others had to put their own work on hold until retirement while they taught art at colleges to support their families. And some simply had no access to training - yet still made (and make) compelling, significant work.Given the art focus, it would have been easy for a publisher to rely on a simple photo, artist`s work, paragraph and repeat. But this work goes beyond that. Granted it was published in partnership with the Smithsonian so we should expect excellence. There is a good amount of "white space" (empty area) on each page to make it comfortable to read, the print size is on the larger side - appropriate for younger readers; and the page colors and image borders always emphasize subject matter - never distracting.If there was nothing else added to Bolden's book - it could have been classified as a stunning coffee table book - enlightening to leaf through but next to useless for a school library. Non-fiction in a school library, at a minimum, must have an index- which this does. It also has afterword, a glossary of art terms, a selected bibliography (which I assume she used herself in researching), suggested reading for students, and extensive illustration credits. This book could be a launching pad for so many student reports- biographies, American history, art, art history, etc. If nothing else, "Wake Up Our Souls" should be used as an exemplar of a scholarly work. It's also an excellent addition to curriculums that expect to see reports on African Americans only during February...Scholarly works leaves breadcrumbs telling you specifically where the facts come from...these notes can be at the bottom of a page or listed at the end which Bolden has done - 3 and half pages worth. Her scholarship and attention to accuracy really show up in one of these notes debunking the myth that a certain artist had a math degree. This is a mark of a good scholar- one whose writings can be trusted. We would call her an authoritative source. She obviously has used her degrees from Columbia and Princeton wisely.Unique among anthologies of American artists are those that include artists whose focus has anything at all to do with Protestant Christianity. "Wake Up Our Souls" brings us at least 6 artists who do. This would make sense given that the African Americans -of all Americans - are the ones most likely to identify themselves as Christian Protestants.There are some issues I have with content and that are the missing artists... The most obvious one is Jean-Michael Basquait - how can you leave out the African American artist whose work has been sold at auction for more than 5 million dollars? Or Kimmy Cantrell or Jewel Golden? And I definitely would have been eager to see how Bolden helped us understand Kara Walker and David Stephens.... She clearly left them out for a reason... I am hoping it is for her next anthology.

  •     Wake Up Our Souls by Tonya BoldenThis is a wonderful book about African-American artists for young readers. It covers a range of artists from the 19th and 20th centuries including Jacob Lawrence, Lois Mailou Jones, Romare Bearden, John Biggers and Rene Stout. It is written in a positive, engaging style which acknowledges the struggles of Black American artists and shows the full range of their humanity.I chose this book as a text book for the Africentric Visual Art curriculum in high school in Toronto, Canada and have been heartbroken to find that it is out of print and that the publisher is not planning a second edition. Teenagers read this book, cover to cover. I wish we had a book like this about African-Canadian artists.

  •     It's a comprehensive book! I appreciated the care and research the author took. My art students used it to research artists for a Black History project.


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