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Wake Up Our Souls: A Celebration of African American Artists Hardcover – February 3, 2004

4.6 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6 Up–The unique place of African-American art in our culture is celebrated in this brightly designed volume, produced in conjunction with the Smithsonian's American Art Museum. Bolden's writing is rich and lyrical. She smoothly incorporates the historical context, explaining pivotal events and relevant artistic movements clearly and succinctly. One notable example is her discussion of the civil rights movement and the formation of Spiral, a group whose members debated the role of their art in the movement, resulting in the 1965 exhibition, Works in Black and White. All of the art is from the museum's collection. The reproductions are of top quality, but in a few instances, a major work of an artist is discussed but not pictured. Also, occasional sidebars or inserts, which feature lengthy biographical sketches and discussions of the artists' work, sometimes interrupt the flow of the text. A glossary of artistic terms, source notes for the original quotes used, and an index complete this welcome addition to art history collections.–Robin L. Gibson, formerly at Perry County District Library, New Lexington, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 6-12. In her introduction, Bolden writes that her book, published in conjunction with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is "not meant to be a comprehensive history of the black American artistic legacy." Instead, she offers a beautifully illustrated introduction, in simple, graceful language, to a selection of African American artists, beginning with the nineteenth century and moving to the present. Accompanying each small biography is a box featuring a well-reproduced, representative work from each included artist and a discussion, in clear, succinct language, that will encourage readers to look closely at the images (and visual art in general) and form their own opinions of what they see. A few of the art terms, such as cubism and neoclassicism, are vaguely defined, but a planned glossary, unavailable in the galley, will hopefully clear up readers' questions. A time line placing the artists in historical context would also have been welcome, but Bolden's text does a fine job of describing the larger social and political climate in which the artists worked as well as the pervasive discrimination they suffered, and her coverage of early African American cultural organizations, such as the Harlem Artist's Guild, is particularly fascinating. Elegant and concise, this handsome volume joins a growing collection of exceptional youth titles about African American visual artists. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 1190L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; 1st edition (February 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810945274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810945272
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.6 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,662,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For all but the most lavishly funded school libraries every purchase must be justified eight ways from Sunday - there is simply no fat in today's budgets. But this work from Tonya Bolden transcends justification and has marched onto the Required List of every middle school, high school, Christian school and public library - particularly the ones stretching dollars.

Bolden has assembled chronologically more then 30 biographies of accomplished American visual artists from Joshua Johnson (late 1700's) to Melvin Edwards (still working). Each artist is presented with the expected data and examples of their best and/or most famous works -plus an image of the artist themselves (painting or photo). But each entry also does an excellent job of explaining their early works, their training if any, why many went to great lengths to get more training and why they decided to train with certain artists/schools. Bolden over the course of the book catches the essence of the growth of an artist - use of the materials at hand; perseverance, seeking out training (for most) and keeping the vision no matter what. Some artists had to go to France to escape prejudicial treatment in the U.S. or to move where their desired teacher-artist lived. Others had to put their own work on hold until retirement while they taught art at colleges to support their families. And some simply had no access to training - yet still made (and make) compelling, significant work.

Given the art focus, it would have been easy for a publisher to rely on a simple photo, artist`s work, paragraph and repeat. But this work goes beyond that. Granted it was published in partnership with the Smithsonian so we should expect excellence.
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Format: Hardcover
In conjunction with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation's greatest repository of African American Art, acclaimed author Tonya Bolden celebrates the many contributions of Black American Artists. In her brightly designed volume, one artist's life and work flows chronically into the other, almost seamlessly as though one took off from where the other left off, each building upon each other's style and work. In fact, each artist was somewhat of a building block for the next, as African American artists were limited as to where they could be educated; they taught each other, and through their collaboration, the lively and fascinating movement of Black American Art grew to acquire a unique place in American history.

From the 17th Century, to the Harlem Renaissance, from folk artists to modern and contemporary artists, pivotal events in history and their relevant artistic movements are clearly and succinctly presented. Meet Alma Thomas who began painting in her late 60's! Read about Romare Bearden, Roy DeCarava, Betye Saar, Faith Ringgold, and Augusta Savage and their many exciting contributions of paintings, sculptures, collages, photographs, and shrines. You will be inspired to visit museums seeking their art, as I was; because of this book, I included a visit to Fisk University's Gallery, while in Nashville, Tennessee, to share their collection of African American Art with my family.

A helpful glossary of artistic terms, source notes for the original quotes used, and an index complete this welcome addition to art history collections. For families, and children grades 5 and up, this book is a journey - an experience to read and return to time and time again.

"...great art can only be created out of love, and that no greater lover ever held a brush" writer James Baldwin about artist Beauford Delaney.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book spellbinding. The history of the artists is filled with the turbulence of life as a non white in a racist america. Each artist's history is compellingly told. I really couldn't put this book down. I want to explore more books by Tonya Bolden, it's author. Bravo for a magnificent book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's a comprehensive book! I appreciated the care and research the author took. My art students used it to research artists for a Black History project.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wake Up Our Souls by Tonya Bolden

This is a wonderful book about African-American artists for young readers. It covers a range of artists from the 19th and 20th centuries including Jacob Lawrence, Lois Mailou Jones, Romare Bearden, John Biggers and Rene Stout. It is written in a positive, engaging style which acknowledges the struggles of Black American artists and shows the full range of their humanity.
I chose this book as a text book for the Africentric Visual Art curriculum in high school in Toronto, Canada and have been heartbroken to find that it is out of print and that the publisher is not planning a second edition. Teenagers read this book, cover to cover. I wish we had a book like this about African-Canadian artists.
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