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Facing African-American History Through African-American Art

When the Philadelphia Museum of Art purchased Henry Ossawa Tanner’s painting The Annunciation in 1899, they became the first American museum to acquire a work by an African-American artist. That purchase announced a new era of recognition of African-American art and artists just as much as the painting itself announced a new style of art moving away from stereotypical “black” scenes towards a freedom of aesthetic choice. Persons of color could express themselves in any way, even abstraction, but faced the new problem of remaining true to themselves at the same time. The new exhibition Represent: 200 Years of African American Art and accompanying catalogue show how these artists faced the challenges posed to them by art and society and provide all of us with a fascinating guide to facing African-American history—tragic, tenacious, transcendent—through its art.

Maya Angelou on Empathy

"Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends."  - Maya Angelou, from Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993)  

“Birth of a Nation” and the Birth of American Cinema

On February 8, 1915, at Clune's Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation premiered. The fledgling art form of film would never be the same, especially in America, which even half a century after the end of the Civil War struggled to come to terms with race. Now, a century after Birth of a Nation’s premier, America still struggles not only with race, but also with how race plays out on the silver screen. For good and ill, Birth of a Nation marks the beginning of the first 100 years of the American Cinema—epically beautiful, yet often racially ugly.

What Happens When America Is No Longer White?

The results from my 23andMe test were not overly surprising. My heritage is predominantly Eastern European, something I already knew given my Hungarian surname and grandparental origins. There were a […]

Searching for Shylock

I wanted my audience to identify with Shylock in a deeply personal way, so much so that they would involuntarily nod and think, “Yes, I understand, I have been there.”

Plutocracy: The New Manifest Destiny

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to be at the historic K’s Hamburger in Troy, Ohio.  For generations, republican presidential candidates have been stumping at this little hamburger shop […]

The Best Art Books of 2012

For the third year running, here’s a very personal, very subjective, “I can’t read everything, so I probably left out something, so mention it in the comments, OK?” list of […]