Mott-Warsh Art Gallery Works Exhibited in Thompson Library

Six new pieces have arrived at Thompson Library — on loan from the Mott-Warsh Art Collection — and now available for viewing.

The new display of lithographs may be seen on the 3rd floor of Thompson Libray along the back wall.  Please stop by soon to see and appreciate these works while they remain with us.

The art collection, owned by The Maryanne Mott and Herman Warsh Collection, contains samples of some of the very best late 20th century works by African American artists.

The mission of the Mott-Warsh Collection is to present contemporary fine art to public audiences in non-traditional venues as well as educational and cultural institutions.

University of Michigan-Flint (with its strong historical ties to the Mott family of Flint, Michigan) and the Thompson Library in particular fit perfectly with the mission and vision statements established by Maryanne Mott and her late husband, Herman Warsh.

The collection was established in 2001 by Maryanne Mott and he late husband, Herman Warsh.  The collection features the work of artists of the African diaspora and those who reflect on it.  It comprises over 600 works by more than 185 artists working in varied media and stylistic approaches.

Represented within the collection are works from mid 20th century masters such as Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett to many new and innovative artists of the early 21st century, and includes a broad array of work from the abstract to the representative.

Common to all pieces within the collection is the focus on unique cultural and social experiences of Africans and Americans of African descent living and working in western (American) society.

Maryanne and Herman begun collecting their art with the intent to assemble and preserve rare works of art endemic to the African community and make them available to the wider audience through its lending program with the intent to educate viewers in art appreciation, art making processes, art history, 20th century American history and the history of the African diaspora.

More works from the Mott-Warsh collection are on view at their Galley in downtown Flint on 815 S Saginaw Street (corner of S. Saginaw and E. Court Street).

Gallery hours are 11:00 am through 6:00 pm on Thursday and Friday, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm on Saturday, and 11:00 am – 9:00 pm on the second Friday of each month.   You may call ahead for information at (810) 835-4900, or check their website at m-wc.org.

The Gallery and it’s extended collection are supported by the Mott-Warsh research library, which has assembled monographs, exhibition catalogs, auction catalogs and journals with subject concentrations in African American art as well as information on fine arts collection management.

Selected works from the Mott-Warsh Collection are currently on display at several locations around Flint, including the Flint Institute of Music, the Flint Public Library, the Ruth Mott Foundation, Mott Community College, Applewood, Kettering University Innovation Center and other locations.

Nationally, pieces are on loan at such renowned institutions as the Museum of Contemporary Art (San Diego), Wexner Center for the Arts (Ohio State University), Walker Art Center, Denver Art Museum, Rudenstine Gallery (W.E.B. DuBois Institute, Harvard University), the Seattle Art Museum, the Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford), the Institute of Contemporary Arts (Boston) and many other museums and art galleries around the nation.

Thompson Library is proud to be numbered among such fine institutions in being selected as a location to display pieces from the Mott-Warsh Collection.

We would like to acknowledge the efforts of Mr. Michael Doyle, our Assistant Director, for being instrumental in arranging for Thompson Library to participate as a display site for works from this esteemed, world-renowned collection.

The new lithographs currently on display in the Library are by the artist Elizabeth Catlett (1915 – 2012), and as a series are entitled For My People.

The lithographs were conceived and published as illustrations for a limited edition large folio featuring Margaret Walker’s poem of the same name.   Ms. Walker, a celebrated poet, novelist, essayist, and educator, was Catlett’s roommate when they attended the University of Iowa in 1939/40.

For My People is from a series of poems written by Walker in which she expressed her ambivalence bout the south, where she had spent her childhood.  Many scholars feel her work bridged the gap between the Harlem Renaissance of the 20s and 30s and the black arts movement of the 60s.

Elizabeth Catlett is known for her abstract sculpture in bronze and marble as well as prints and paintings, particularly depicting the female figure.   Ms. Catlett is unique for distilling African American, Native American, and Mexican at in her work.

Born in Washington D.C. and later becoming a Mexican citizen, Catlett received a bachelor of arts degree from Howard University and a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa, where she studied with the regionalist painter, Grand Wood.  She also studied at the Art Institute of Chicago as well as the Art Students League in New York City.

Wood’s teaching dictum was, “paint what you know best.”   This set Catlett on the patch to dealing with her own background in her artwork.

In 1940, her painting, “Mother and Child,” depicting African-American figues, won her substantial recognition.

Later in 1946, she traveled to Mexico and became interested in the Mexican working class.  She settled pemanently in Mexico in 1947, and eventually met and married artist Francisco Mora.

From 1958 to 1973 she was head of the deparment and professor of sculpture at the National School of Fine Arts in Mexico.   During this time, she did extensive work in printmaking, which she found an affordable medium for reaching the masses, and produced images of African-American and Mexican working class women.

Ms. Catlett’s art can be found in major museums in the United States and abroad.  She has received countless honors and awards for her work within her lifetime.

Following is the poem, For My People, by Margaret Walker (inspiration for this series of lithographs), which was published in 1942.

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs repeatedly:  their dirges and their ditties and their blues and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an unknown god, bending their knees humbling to an unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the gone years and the now years and the maybe years, washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching dragging along never gaining never reaping never knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking and playhouse and concert and store and hair and Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn to know the reasons why the answers to and the people who and the places where the days when, in memory of the bitter hous when we discovered we were black and poor and small and different and nobody cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and play and drink their wine and religion and success, to marry their playmates and bear children and then die of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47h Street in Chicago and Len\ox Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy people filling the cabarets and taverns and other people’s pockets needing bead and shoes and milk and land and money and something-something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied and shackled and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in the dark of churches and schools and clubs and societies, associations and councils and committees and conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches, preyed on by the facile force of state and fad and novelty, by false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing trying to fashion a better way from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding, trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people, all the faces, all the dams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise.  Let another world be born.  Let a bloody peace be written in the sky.  Let a second generation full of courage issue forth; let a people loving freedom come to growth.  Let a beauty full of healing and strength of final clenching by the pulsing in our spirits and our blood.  Let the martial songs be written, let the dirges disappear.  Let a race of men now rise and take control.

 (Click on any image to enlarge)