This week in Black art and culture, Kara Walker artwork upsets middle school parents, American illustrator Jerry Pinkney passes on. The Yale Center for British Art re-exhibits Elihu Yale’s controversial picture of an enslaved child. Moose Knuckles and Telfar collaborate on an outerwear capsule. The bust of Dr. Huey P. Newton makes its debut.
Charlotte North Carolina School in Uproar over Kara Walker Art Work
Kennedy Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina is facing backlash from parents after middle schools students were asked to study Kara Walker’s “Gone, A Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart. “Parents were concerned that the Walker’s seminal work was to mature for pre-teen students. The artwork was placed on CANVAS, an educational platform that educators use to share assignments and educational resources with students. The Charlotte School district immediately pulled the image and moved to prevent sexually explicit work from being available to young students.
Above: Kara Walker’s Gone, A Historical Romance of a Civil War as it Occurred Between the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart.
According to the school principle “It was brought to my attention that there were some inappropriate artist images that were inadvertently included in a 6th grade art lesson while the teacher is on maternity leave. I worked with the art teacher to have the pictures removed from the CANVAS platform.” While the parents are relived that the art was removed, they are concerned about vetting images that are appropriate for middle school students. While the principal ensure that all images shared with students will be vetted moving forward, the school district office stated “The digital and print resources teachers use within their classroom or on assignments should be vetted and researched before making them available to students. “In this instance, there was insufficient review and inappropriate images became apparent when viewed beyond icons that included less detail. The link was immediately removed so students could not have access to the site. Parents were informed of the oversight and the process has been reiterated to staff.”
Celebrating Jerry Pinkney’s Life
Jerry Pinkney, a well-known children’s book illustrator best known for picture books that reflected his African-American background, died on Oct. 20 after a brief illness unrelated to COVID. He was 81 years old. For his picture book, The Lion and the Mouse, published in 2010, he received a Caldecott prize, five Coretta Scott King honors from the American Library Association, and a lifetime achievement award from the Society of Illustrators.
Beginning with The Adventures of Spider: West African Folk Tales in 1964, he put his stamp on over 100 books, largely for children and teenagers, throughout the course of a nearly six-decade career. Pinkney also cooperated with his wife, Gloria Jean, a children’s book author, on a regular basis. In 1977, he created illustrations for the United States Postal Service’s first Black Heritage postage stamp series. Pinkney has contributed pictures to books on the history of the Underground Railroad, published by the National Park Service and National Geographic. Pinkney was a mentor to numerous artists, including James Ransome and his son, Brian Pinkney, who is now a children’s book illustrator.
Controversial Enslaved Child Picture Displayed at Yale
The Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) made a big step in interrogating a contentious 18th-century group portrait from its collection a year ago this month. The portrait was given a technical analysis as it included an enslaved Black boy with a silver collar and padlock around his neck. It centered on the university’s namesake, Elihu Yale, depicting him alongside members of his family.
Completed around 1719, the work is thought to have been painted at Yale’s London home. According to the Elihu Yale Portrait Research Team, the picture was removed from the gallery a year ago because visitors and employees had expressed concern over the child’s sad representation.
Around the same time, the museum began an extensive investigation into the picture. The identification of the enslaved African-American youngster represented in the painting was foremost in the minds of the study team. It is very likely that the child depicted was born in 1712 and brought to England when he was five years old.
The researchers looked through baptism, marriage, and burial records but could not find the child’s name. During this time, the painting was replaced with a sculpture and painting by Titus Kaphar, an African American artist and painter residing in New Haven. Enough About You took on the original painting of Elihu Yale by putting a frame around the enslaved child’s face, to reemphasize its focus. For six months, Kaphar’s painting hung in the exact spot the group portrait previously hung, but as of May it has been returned to its owners. The picture was placed back on display earlier this month with a new context that focuses on the enslaved child.
While there is no evidence that Elihu Yale was a slave owner, self-portraits including slaves were popular in his time, to give the impression of wealth and power with George Washington, among others, themselves appearing in portraits with slaves. The painting is part of a larger discussion of Yale University’s ties to slavery.
Moose Knuckles and Telfar Collaborate on Outerwear
Telfar Clemens and his company, Telfar have collaborated on an outerwear collection with Moose Knuckles, a Canadian outerwear brand. Telfar and Moose Knuckles want to pay respect to the long history of puffer coats in New York. A traditional bomber suit with a matching pair of fox-trimmed, boot-cut ski trousers is featured in the 17-piece collection, which marks Telfar’s first venture into outerwear.
Additional garments include a double-breasted, hybrid-wool and nylon puff peacoat and puff hoodie hybrid with a traditional Telfar monogram integrated into bands of nylon. The set also will contain a limited-edition Puff-Telfar shopper bag. The prices of the pieces will vary from $195 to $4,300.
This past summer, Moose Knuckles announced that company will stop using fur by the end of 2022 and has committed to a worldwide sustainability strategy. On Nov. 1, 2021, the Telfar x Moose Knuckles collection will be available at Mooseknucklescanada.com, TELFAR.net, and Moose Knuckles boutiques in SoHo (New York City), Roosevelt Field (New York), Boston (Massachusetts), and Westchester (New York). Exclusive collection pieces will be available at Notre, Saks Fifth Avenue, Holt Renfrew, Ssense, and Galeries Lafayette beginning Monday, Nov. 8.
Dr. Huey P. Newton Bust Debuts on Black Panther Party Anniversary
On the 55th anniversary of the Black Panther Party, a bronze sculpture of Dr. Huey P. Newton was unveiled this Sunday in Oakland, California. The first permanent public art installation honoring the Black Panther Party was unveiled during a block party celebration presented by the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation. “It just glowed, like he did,” his widow, Fredrika Newton said. “His skin just glistened.”
Dana King, a local Oakland artist, produced the bronze sculpture of Dr. Newton. During the creative process, King spent time with Newton’s widow, as well as family members, former Party members, and others who knew Huey and related tales. Sculptor Dana King worked on the monument in her West Oakland studio for two years. With the cooperation of fellow Black Panthers and Fredrika Newton, who co-founded the Dr. Huey P. Newton Foundation, King sculpted Newton’s visage out of clay.
The ceremony took place on Sunday at the spot where Newton was assassinated in 1989, at Dr. Huey P. Newton Way and Mandela Parkway.
-Compiled by Sumaiyah E. Wade