Farewell to Annie Lee (1935-2014)

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The art world has lost an icon. Internationally acclaimed African American artist Annie Lee passed away on November 24 in Henderson, Nevada. Known for her expressive, mostly humorous paintings of faceless figures, she captured slices of Black life and lifestyle from church to the lounge; from the oval office to the cottonfields; from childhood memories to old love.
A memorial service for the beloved artist will take place in Matteson, IL on Sunday December 20.

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Her most iconic painting, “Blue Monday” struck a chord with women all over America and continues to be her best-selling print some 30 years since it was first printed.

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Following is a tribute to the artist from the Philadelphia Tribune:

“Painter and decorative artist Annie Frances Lee, known for her unique ability to celebrate African-American culture passed away on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 in Henderson, Nev. She was 79 years old.

Lee was well known for her realistic and humorous portrayals of contemporary and historical African-American family life. Lee established herself internationally not only as an artist, but a respected and business savvy entrepreneur. Her noted ability to convey feelings through the faceless subjects of her paintings has won her a place in history as one of the icons of African-American art. “My paintings are of everyday life. I try to paint things that people can identify with,” Lee told Contemporary Black Biography (CBB).

Born in Gadsden, Ala. in 1935 and raised in Chicago, Lee began painting at age 10 in elementary school, where she won her first art contest and received a free semester of study at the Art Institute of Chicago. She continued honing her artistic skills resulting in a four-year scholarship to Northwestern University. However, she chose marriage and raising a family over attending school.

Lee did not resume painting until she was 40 years old. By then, she had lost two husbands to cancer and raised a daughter from her first marriage and a son from her second. While working as the chief clerk at Northwestern Railroad, Annie studied art at night, eventually earning a masters degree in Interdisciplinary Art from Loyola University. Although she never intended to teach, after eight years of night classes, Lee told CBB, “Getting my masters degree was the best thing I ever did for myself. It reopened my mind.”

Painting at night was Lee’s haven and release from the pressures of everyday life. Her railroad job inspired one of Lee’s most popular paintings, “Blue Monday,” which depicts a woman struggling to pull herself out of bed on a Monday morning. Living in such close proximity to her art caused new challenges for Lee. She developed tendinitis and spinal problems from painting so much. Even worse, the fumes from the acrylic paints she used made her sick. Despite these problems, she continued to paint, having her first gallery show in 1985. The show was so successful that Lee allowed prints to be made of four of the paintings, so that she could meet the demand for her work.

In 1986, she lost her son to a tragic car accident. She took off time to grieve and while doing so, decided it was time to step out on faith with her talent. She never returned to the railroad.

A hallmark of Lee’s work is that the figures she paints are faceless. “You don’t need to see a face to understand emotion,” Lee explained to CBB. “I try to make the movement of the body express the emotion. And people can use their imaginations.”

Having been showcased in galleries around the world, Lee became an internationally recognized painter and an original piece of her work sells for anywhere between $4,000 and $20,000. Her art has been used as decorations for television and movie sets such as “A Different World”, “227,” “Coming to America,” “Boomerang” and “Barber Shop.”

Her business acumen, however, led her to develop a line of figurines, high fashion dolls, decorative housewares and kitchen tiles and home décor items recreated from her paintings that offer the opportunity for everyone, on any budget, to own a piece of Annie Lee.”

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New Releases from Edwin Lester

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“By Any Means Neccesary”
Edwin Lester

The latest release in Edwin Lester’s “Uncolored” series is a limited edition giclee on canvas that tells of a chapter in our history when a simple act could be considered seditious and, hence,  punishable. It tells the story of a slave girl and the daughter of the slave holder who have formed a bond through their desire to teach and be taught literacy. They share a furtive moment immersed in the pages of a book, but face the very real danger of being found out when the plantation  owner comes in search of her daughter.

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“All About that Brass”
Edwin Lester


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On Her Birthday, We Celebrate the Life of Dorothy Height

Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010)

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Today marks the birthday of Dorothy Height, the unsung hero of the Civil Rights and feminist movements who helped Dr. Martin Luther King organize the March on Washington and co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus with Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan.

She has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, the two highest honors awarded to an American civilian. She also stood on as Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009, and Obama called her the “godmother of the civil rights movement” after her death in 2010.

Height was named president of the National Council of Negro Women, a position she held until 1997. She also served as National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority from 1946 to 1957 and remained active with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority throughout her life. While there she developed leadership training programs and interracial and ecumenical education programs.

While Height made major contributions to both the civil rights movement and the women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s, she was often marginalized in each movement because of her race and gender. She helped organize Dr. King’s March on Washington, yet was not asked to speak along with the male civil rights leaders. She was accepted to Barnard College in 1929, but was not able to enroll because she was black. She went to New York University instead, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s in psychology.

Born on March 24, 1912, in Richmond, Virginia, Dorothy Height spent her life fighting for civil rights and women’s rights. The daughter of a building contractor and a nurse, Height moved with her family to Rankin, Pennsylvania, in her youth. There, she attended racially integrated schools.

In high school, Height showed great talent as an orator. She also became socially and politically active, participating in anti-lynching campaigns. Height’s skills as a speaker took her all the way to a national oratory competition. Winning the event, she was awarded a college scholarship.

Height had applied to and been accepted to Barnard College in New York, but as the start of school neared, the college changed its mind about her admittance, telling Height that they had already met their quota for black students. Undeterred, she applied to New York University, where she would earn two degrees: a bachelor’s degree in education in 1930 and a master’s degree in psychology in 1932. Another of Height’s major accomplishments at the YWCA was directing the integration of all of its centers in 1946. She also established its Center for Racial Justice in 1965, which she ran until 1977. In 1957, Height became the president of the National Council of Negro Women. Through the center and the council, she became one of the leading figures of the Civil Rights Movement. Height worked with Martin Luther King Jr., A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, John Lewis and James Farmer—sometimes called the “Big Six” of the Civil Rights Movement—on different campaigns and initiatives.

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Dr Height in 1974, and with President Ronald    Dr Height shares a joke with George W Bush before he
Reagan during a reception at the White House    presented her with the Congressional Gold Medal in
in 1983                                                                             2004

Height received many honors for her contributions to society. In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She stepped down from the presidency of the NCNW in the late 1990s, but remained the organization’s chair of the board until her death in 2010. In 2002, Height turned her 90th birthday celebration into a fundraiser for the NCNW; Oprah Winfrey and Don King were among the celebrities who contributed to the event.

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Dr Dorothy Height, left, in one of her characteristically colorful outfits, with her comrade-at-arms Rosa Parks

In 2004, President George W. Bush gave Height the Congressional Gold Medal. She later befriended the first African-American president of the United States, Barack Obama, who called her “the godmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” according to The New York Times. Height died in Washington, D.C., on April 20, 2010.

Obama_at_dorothy_heights_funeralPresident Barack Obama wipes away tears during the funeral for the ‘Godmother’ of the civil rights movement Dorothy Height in Washington

Former first lady Hillary Clinton was among the many who mourned the passing of the famed champion for equality and justice. Clinton told the Washington Post that Height “understood that women’s rights and civil rights are indivisible. She stood up for the rights of women every chance she had.”


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Exciting New Releases from Kevin A. Williams, Edwin Lester, Maurice Evans and Charles Bibbs

We are so excited by the addition of a great harvest of new prints from some of our best-selling artists. We can’t wait to tell you about them, so here goes.

TWO BY EDWIN LESTER

Edwin Lester shows that he is a knowledgeable Biblical scholar in his take on two moving Bible stories:

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“Esther”
Giclee on Canvas
22″ x 28″

“Esther” tells the story of a beautiful young Jewess who risked her life to serve God and to save her people. She proved to be a woman of unusual wisdom and courage, facing adversity and wickedness with a quiet confidence and grace.
By the way, the book of Esther is one of only two books in the entire Bible named for women (the other is the book of Ruth).

Edwin Lester’s illustration of this Biblical story is rich in it photo-realistic details and captures all the drama, intrigue and romance of the story.

READ THE STORY OF ESTHER HERE
PURCHASE EDWIN LESTER’S “ESTHER” HERE
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“Two Men in a Field”

Open Edition Print
22″ x 28″

“Two Men in a Field” dramatically illustrates the Biblical reference to the Rapture contained in Matthew 24:40-41. Sure to be one of Lester’s best selling prints, it is available in an open edition at the very affordable price of $40 (our discounted price $32).

PURCHASE EDWIN LESTER’S “TWO MEN IN A FIELD” HERE

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“STAINED” BY KEVIN A. WILLIAMS

Kevin A. Williams (WAK) has just released a limited edition version of his stunning painting of a Black domestic scrubbing the floor of her white employer. In what is also a symbolic action, she scrubs the impression of a slave ship imprinted on the floor as if trying to wipe away the ugly and subjugating vestiges of slavery.

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“Stained”
Limited Edition Print
27″ x 28″
PURCHASE KEVIN A. WILLIAMS  “STAINED” HERE

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UNTITLED ROMANTIC PRINT FROM MAURICE EVANS

We are happy to be among the first to introduce this still untitled print by Maurice Evans (the artist has invited the public to submit entries in a contest to name the painting and will announce the winner and the title shortly). A decidedly cool and charismatic work by the dynamic Atlanta artist, this will add the right amount of flair and romance to the bedroom, or any other room in the house. The new print is available in two formats: giclee on paper and giclee on canvas.

We have also added a number of new giclees by Maurice Evans to our online store. Check out his gallery HERE

maurice_evans_untitled“Untitled”
Limited Edition Giclee
23″ x 33″
PURCHASE MAURICE EVANS NEW PRINT HERE

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NEW ANGEL PRINT FROM CHARLES BIBBS

Charles Bibbs releases the 11th print in the Angel series. It depicts a beautiful angel gracefully floating on a heavenly chariot.

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“Sweet Chariot”
Limited Edition Giclee
26.5″ x 19.5″
PURCHASE “SWEET CHARIOT” HERE

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Franklin McCain of Woolworth Lunch Counter Sit-in Dies at 73

Franklin McCain, who in 1960, along with three college friends, sat at the whites-only lunch counter at a Woolworth store in Greensboro, N.C and helped fuel the civil rights movement, died on January 9 at 73. We honor his bravery and sacrifice.

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Franklin McCain, second from left, at a sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., in 1960.
McMahan Archive

SEE THIS PRINT ON AVISCA.COM

Franklin McCain was one of the Greensboro Four who sat at lunch counter stools at a Greensboro, N.C. Woolworth store, not expecting to be served since it was a white-only counter. They were not served, but insistently came back each day for the next four days and sat and ordered.

As word of the protest spread, they were joined by a growing crowd. By the end of the fifth day, more than a thousand people had joined them. On July 25, the store relented and made the lunch counter available to all.

The impact of the Greensboro sit-in rippled and spread to more than 55 cities in 13 states and contributed to the momentum of the civil rights movement which culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The other three students were Ezell Blair Jr., who later changed his name to Jibreel Khazan, Joseph McNeil and David Richmond who died in 1990.

 

 

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New Giclee Prints from Frank Morrison

Just released – two new limited edition giclee prints by Frank Morrison

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Rooftop by Frank Morrison
Limited Edition Giclee on Canvas
36 x 18
Edition Size: 50
More info

Set against an urban background a young couple enjoys a romantic interlude with a glass of wine, a city skyline view and smooth conversation. Frank Morrison’s charming painting is throwback to a time when romance included time to talk and spend quality time together. We love this piece!

 

 
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The Cut Master by Frank Morrison
Limited Edition Giclee on Canvas
24 x 24
Edition Size: 50
More info

Sure to be a hit with the younger crowd, this Frank Morrison print captures the energy and verve of an urban, hip hop DJ as he scratches and fades and pumps the crowd to dance.

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Happy New Year from Avisca.com – Your African American Art Store

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New Giclees on Canvas by Tamara Natalie Madden

We are proud to offer two new giclees on canvas by rising art star Tamara Natalie Madden and to introduce her, through her own words, to our readers.

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Cycles                                                      Spatial

Limited Edition Giclees on canvas that are hand-embellished by the artist available from Avisca.com.

Tamara Natalie Madden

Tamara Natalie Madden is a US-based, Jamaica-born artist who has been making art over a ten-year career that has seen her rise from obscurity to the pages of magazines, to solo gallery exhibitions and to being a widely collected artist. But her life has not always been rosy and her life continues to be a struggle. While struggling with a life-threatening illness, Tamara turned to painting and she’s never turned back. Here she talks about the value of struggle and celebrating African beauty through her work. READ ON

What inspired you to be an artist/ what inspires you to create? 
I’ve been an artist all of my life, but my first inspirations came from my Uncle Carl in Jamaica. He drew pictures out of magazines, and at other times he would carve wood. It was all very fascinating to me. I was also inspired by the drawings in picture books. I was always artistically inclined, but once I began to recognize the art around me, I was even more inspired.

My current work is inspired by the intrinsic beauty of everyday people who are often overlooked. I chose to represent their inner beauty by turning them into representations of kings, queens and warriors. We don’t often see the greatness in people because we spend too much time judging them.

What has been your greatest challenge in being an artist? 
The greatest challenge is the struggle. Making the decision to become a full time artist, is not for the faint of heart. It comes with ups and downs, and lots of failures. I struggled to be taken seriously, to be respected, and to push through, despite the situation.

How have you dealt with/overcome it? 
I wholeheartedly believe that struggle builds character. I think that it really helps to make you a stronger person. The struggle taught me about passion, and diligence, and faith. Without those things, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today, and definitely not the artist I am today.

What has been your greatest achievement? 
My greatest achievement is my survival from illness, and my willingness to listen to God and pursue my art. Art helped me through my illness, and when I got better I knew that it was what I was supposed to do with my life. That was ten years ago, and now I’m here, alive, healthy and living my passion.

Where will you be in 10 years? 
Ten years ago I received a kidney transplant, from my wonderful brother, that saved my life, and that same year I participated in my first art exhibition. I have had many accomplishments in the last 10 years, and I can only hope that ten years from now my art will be making more of a difference in the lives of my people.

Read more of Tamara’s story in these publications:
Heart and Soul Magazine: Finding Peace
African & Afro-Diasporan Art Talks

VIEW ORIGINAL WORK BY TAMARA NATALIE MADDEN

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