Emory Douglas – Graphic Artist, Printmaker

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Emory Douglas was an art student at City College in San Francisco, CA when he decided to join the Black Panther Party. He traveled frequently from San Francisco to Oakland to spend time with the organization’s founders, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. One visit, Seale was designing the cover for the first issue of the party’s newspaper, The Black Panther, and Douglas offered to assist. That moment led to Douglas’ role as the Art Director for the paper and the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, a position he served from 1967 to the 1980s.

Douglas’ work is easily recognizable – his bold lines, fearless imagery, and use of text jumps off the page. His intent was to create clear, powerful imagery that could communicate effectively to the paper’s audience, many of them being poor and illiterate. Every design was a visual representation of the revolution – the injustices, the solidarity, the anger, the fight, the blood, and the power. The Black Panther reached thousands of readers.

Huey P. Newton would have been 73 years old today. A charismatic and intelligent leader, Newton’s passion to eradicate the injustices experienced by black and brown people is still inspiring. For creatives, Douglas’ artwork is just as powerful. He illustrated a entire movement with intent and style. He still creates, although independently, and his work continues to discuss political and social injustices such as the HIV/AIDs epidemic, prison-industrial complex, and crime within the black community. See what Douglas’ is doing now at his website, http://emorydouglasart.com/.

{all power to the people}

Winifred Mason Chenet – Jewelry Designer

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(l to r) 1.  Vodun vévé necklace, brass, signed “Chenet d’Haiti,” photo by Scandimania; 2. Cuff, brass and copper, signed “Mason”; 3. Vévé Brooch, silver, c. 1945, signed “Chenet d’Haiti”; 4. Pin, copper, signed “Mason”; 5. Winifred Mason photo featured in Ebony Magazine, 1946.

As you may know, my second blog post featured Art Smith, an avant-garde jewelry designer during the mid-1900s. One thing I absolutely love about curating this blog is that I have to research and as a result, I discover more artists aka more dopeness. So while researching Art Smith, I found out he got his start working as a full-time assistant for a brilliant jewelry designer by the name of Winifred Mason-Chenet.

Winifred Mason-Chenet was a petite, stylish, and cultured lady who was absolutely dedicated to the artistic process. She believed in utilizing innovative practices to create custom designs for her clients which meant that no two pieces were alike. A few of her clients happened to be the “Who’s Who” of that era including jazz goddess, Billie Holiday. Like Art Smith, Chenet owned a storefront studio in Greenwich Village, NYC and sold her work in various boutiques and stores. In 1945, she received a Rosenwald Foundation Award to visit Haiti and study the local artisans. It was after this visit and her subsequent marriage to a Haitian artist that Chenet’s work evolved and she began incorporating Vodun spiritual drawings or vévés into her pieces.

There isn’t a lot of information about Chenet but what is available will blow your mind. Her jewelry speaks for itself, exuding power and artistic integrity. I can’t get over her audacity to use African cosmological elements in her designs. Please believe that I would LOVE to own any one of her pieces especially that Vodun vévé necklace!

Find out more about Chenet’s incredible career here: http://www.modernsilver.com/winifredmason.html.

{peace}

Arthur “Art” Smith – Jewelry Designer

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(l to r) 1. Model wearing “Modern Cuff” Bracelet, ca. 1948; 2. Art Smith in his studio; 3. Cluster Knuckles Ring, ca. 1968. Brooklyn Museum; 4. “Lava” Bracelet, ca. 1946. Brooklyn Museum; 5. Patina necklace; 6. Art Smith photographed by Arthur Mones, 1979.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing “From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith” at the Dallas Museum of Art. I was simply floored by Smith’s work and his story. Arthur “Art” Smith was a Jamaican-born, NYC raised jewelry designer who became a leader of the modernist design jewelry movement. In the mid 1940s, Smith opened Art Smith Studios in NYC’s Greenwich Village. It wasn’t long before Smith began selling his work in craft stores, boutiques, and major department stores (think Bloomingdale’s) throughout the US. By the early 1950’s, his work was featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and The New Yorker.

Smith’s designs incorporated surrealism, biomorphism, and African motifs. His jewelry ranged from small, simple pieces to larger works that would wrap around the body. I adore how he used lines, texture, and even color to create intricate movement along the human, specifically female, form. If I had to described his jewelry in one word, it would be {organic}. Check out more of Smith’s gorgeous designs at http://artsmithjewelry.com/.