Lorna Simpson, Waterbearer, 1986
Courtesy of Lorna Simpson. © 1986 Lorna Simpson
Seamstress. Nanny. Cook. Housekeeper. Maybe teacher, nurse or secretary. Those were the roles women of color were expected to hold in American society during the mid-20th century. To pursue something more ambitious professionally was to push against tightly held, deeply entrenched norms. A white man could be whatever he wanted to be: Scientist. Artist. Doctor. President. But women –– particularly women of color –– were considered radical if they so much as asked for equal treatment in society, let alone pursued a creative or aspirational career.
Painter Emma Amos put it this way: “For me, a black woman artist, to walk into the studio is a political act.”
This Friday at the California African American Museum, the radical, political, bold and daring work of over 40 black women artists and art collectives will go on display. The show, which debuted over the spring and summer at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, is called “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85.”
In New York, critics raved about “We Wanted a Revolution” and photos of the show spread like wildfire across social media. Thousands of posts on Twitter and Instagram (#wewantedarevolution) were accompanied by some variation of the same message: You have to go see this show.
“We Wanted a Revolution” is a one-two punch of melanin and estrogen that makes a demand: Look at us. Look at black women. Look at what they have made. How they have suffered. What they are worth. Hear their voices. Consider their souls and experiences. See their value. Take the time to learn the histories of their art, of the battles against racism and sexism in which they’re still forced to engaged.
Betye Saar, Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail, 1973
Private collection. © Betye Saar, courtesy the artist and Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, California. (Photo: Jonathan Dorado,…