African American Art: DVD and VHS Videos
with an emphasis on representational art
TFAO suggests these DVD or VHS videos:
Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist. To capture Aaron Douglas's on-site murals painted in the 1930s, the Spencer Museum of Art has commissioned a video as part of the Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist exhibition. The high-definition video, created for the 2007 exhibit by noted filmmaker, producer, and director Madison Davis Lacy, documents Douglas's murals at Fisk University in Nashville and the Harlem YMCA in New York. A blend of contemporary images of the murals and archival footage interspersed with statements by leading scholars of African American art and culture, the video adds a new dimension to the record of Douglas's murals. Mr. Lacy's film honors include Emmy Awards for the documentaries Free to Dance (PBS), Beyond Tara - The Extraordinary Life of Hattie McDaniel (AMC), The Time Has Come (as part of Eyes on the Prize: America at the Racial Crossroads (1965-1985) (PBS), and Richard Wright - Black Boy (PBS, BBC). He has also received a Peabody Award for the film Back to the Movement. Mr. Lacy served as executive producer for the feature-length documentary Paris is Burning and has many other film projects to his credit.
African-American Art: Past and Present A comprehensive survey of African-American art. With more than 65 artists represented, the program is divided into three programs: African Art, 18th and 19th Century Fine Art Survey, and 20th Century Fine Art Survey: In the Artist's Words. 90 minutes VHS. Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
African-American Artists: Affirmation Today Sculptor Frederick Brown and painters Sam Gilliam, Lois Jones and Keith Morrison discuss their work, their influences and the importance of their heritage. These masters detail not only their technique but also how they overcame prejudice to succeed. 29 minutes. VHS."Examines the contributions and experiences of African-American visual artists, including five contemporary artists: Sam Gilliam (b. 1933), Lois Mailou Jones (b. 1905), Fred Brown (b. 1945), and Keith Morrison (b. 1942)"  Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance is an insightful 57 minute PBS documentary from 1994 by PBS Home Video. This documentary by Amber Edwards is narrated by actor Joe Morton The video combines more than 130 rarely seen paintings, photographs and sculptures from the era. They include the sculpture Cousin-on-Friday by Leslie G. Bolling in the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; rare footage of the artists and their world; first-person accounts by 3 surviving artists; and interviews with authors, art historians, and curators.
"Profiles African-American visual artists who contributed to the Harlem Renaissance in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s. Provides historical background and tells of the artists' struggles against racism and segregation."  Against the Odds: The Artists of the Harlem Renaissance is a video available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Art of Romare Bearden, The is a 30 minute 2002 video from Home Vision Entertainment with the National Gallery of Art. "Romare Bearden's art captures the diversity and richness of his life. With roots in North Carolina, Bearden migrated north at an early age, living in industrial Pittsburgh, vibrant Harlem, and, later in his life, on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin. These four locales and his memories of their people, music, colors, and stories form the basis of Bearden's collages and paintings. This film, narrated by Morgan Freeman with readings by Danny Glover, traces the artist's career using new and archival footage to demonstrate the artistic impact of Bearden's memories and art-historical models." The Art of Romare Bearden uses new and archival footage to examine the impact of North Carolina, New York, Pittsburgh and the Caribbean on Bearden's work. Features commentary by writer Albert Murray, musician Wynton Marsalis; artist Emma Amos, curator Ruth Fine, professor Richard Powell of Duke University, and biographer Myron Schwartzman. ISBN: 0-7800-2866-X This DVD is lent free of charge through the National Gallery of Art's Division of Education (go to NGA Loan Materials Finder)
Behind the Scenes Series, Carrie Mae Weems is a 30 minute 1999. video released by First Run Features based on a series by PBS. Presents American photographer Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953) demonstrating how she decides what to photograph. Discusses how subject matter and composition combine to create meaning in a photograph. The noted photographer, with help from William Wegman, shows how to use composition and content in a photograph. A behind the scenes look. 30-minute video, guide  Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Benny Andrews: The Visible Man is a 28 minute L&S Video hosted by Geoffrey Holder, created and produced by Linda Freeman and written and directed by David Irving. A self-styled innovator, Benny Andrews, an African-American artist, creates collages and paintings of stunning humanity. Growing up in the 1930's in a sharecropper's family, Andrews shines a sensitive light on these invisible people through his drawings, paintings and collages. ISBN 1-882660-10-2
Betty La Duke: An Artist's Journey from the Bronx to Timbuktu is a 30 minute 1996 video that follows six decades of La Duke's life and art to date: her beginnings with immigrant parents; the influence of Native and African-American artists; travels to third-world countries; and her own dynamic paintings.
Betye & Alison Saar: Conjure Women of the Arts is a 28 minute L&S video, ISBN 1-882660-06-4, created and produced by Linda Freeman and written and directed by David Irving, which examines the personal and artistic relationship between artist Betye Saar and daughter Alison Saar. The artists' enthusiasm and originality make for an engaging and wonderful video. It shows both artists working in their studios, discussing their influences, and collaborating on the installation piece, House of Gris Gris. Bettye & Alison Saar is a video available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Come Unto Me: The Faces Of Tyree Guyton is a 30 minute 1999 HBO documentary chronicling the efforts of Detroit folk artist Tyree Guyton to revitalize a devastated neighborhood with colorful art and sculpture based on junk and other discarded objects. Directed by Nicole Cattell.
Duncanson Murals: Nicholas Longworth's Legacy to the Taft Museum 15 minute / 1986 / TM - "Robert Scott Duncanson (1821-1872) distinguished himself as the first and most accomplished African-American artist to work in the 19th-century Romantic landscape tradition. This program briefly examines Duncanson's life and the 8 large wall murals that he executed for the Cincinnati home of his abolitionist patron, Nicholas Longworth. Concluding the program is a discussion of the role of mural painting throughout history."
Dye Transfer Process, The Demonstrates the four basic steps of making color photographic prints using the dye transfer process. Fort Worth photographer Luther Smith (b. 1950) hosts the program. 8-minute video. Description source: Amon Carter Museum Teacher Resource Center
Ellis Wilson-So Much To Paint is a 60 minute KET production tells the story of a little-known African-American artist who, in both his life and his art, paved the way for others to come. This documentary puts Ellis Wilson and his work into both historical and artistic contexts. A pioneer in his choice of subject matter, Wilson was also a stylistic innovator who used bold geometric shapes and bright colors to celebrate the dignity and the hopes of ordinary people. His story also offers insights into the creative impulse and will spark discussion on the purposes, subjects, and impacts of works of art.
Emma Amos: Action Lines is a 28 minute L&S Video hosted by Anna Deavere Smith, created and produced by Linda Freeman and written and directed by David Irving. An African-American artist of incredible strength, color and dramatic palette, Emma Amos paints pictures based on her feelings and fears. She includes materials such as photographs, her own weaving, and African cloth to help portray what is important to her. ISBN 1-882660-12-9
Faith Ringgold Paints Crown Heights. African-American artist FaIth Ringgold illustrates the folk tales of 12 distinct cultures who call Crown Heights home. This Inspirational 28 minute documentary shows how diverse cultures have contributed to the American spirit, using Ringgold's beautiful paintings. Through folktales and painting this documentary shows how these diverse cultures have contributed to the American spirit. "Culture is forever", declares Robert Farris Thompson, (Professor of History of Art and African-American Art, Yale University) as he provides insightful commentary throughout the video. Both the creative and technical aspects of making the Crown Heights painted quilt are thoroughly presented by the artist as it is being made. Ringgold describes in detail her process of preparing and quilting the canvas, using an under-painting establishing a color palette, and addingglazes of color. On being a visual artist, Ringgold speaks to the budding artist, "It's creative, it's imaginative, and it's hard work. Painting is hard work." Ringgold also comments on the cultural heritage addressed in this piece. She emphasizes that the differences in people are wonderful. Everyone's culture works for them. If it works for them, some part of it may work for you", says Ringgold. "The message of this quilt is that we are all chosen", concludes Robert Farris Thompson. 28 minute L&S Vudeo
Faith Ringgold: The Last Story Quilt. From the day she learned to draw, Faith Ringgold has worked steadily to master her craft and communicate her vision: to present a realistic view of the black female in society. This 28 minute L&S video is an insider's look at how one woman has fumlled her dream of becoming an artist. Cine Gold Eagle Award. "Interviews American painter, sculptor, and quiltmaker Faith Ringgold (b.1934) about her career as an African-American woman artist. She acknowledges the strong influence of her mother, a fashion designer and dressmaker, and describes her breakthrough technique of painting on cloth, which allowed her work to be rolled up and shipped inexpensively. Looks at the combined influence on her work of European painters and African traditions, particularly the patterns and repetition of African design." ISBN 1-882660-00-5  Faith Ringgold: The Last Story Quilt is a video available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Gordon Parks: Photographer and Artist. Available through Currier Museum of Art.
Griots of Imagery: A Comment on the Art of Romare Bearden and Charles White. A presentation on the art of two Afro-American artists who are true African keepers of history and culture or "griots", based on the 1993 exhibition of Romare Bearden and Charles White. Bearden's art is based on his reflections concerning what he called "the prevalence of ritual" in African-American life. White's art reflects his concern with the struggle of Black Americans to transcend the vissicitudes of American life. c1993. 28 min. Video/C 5271 Available from Media Resources Center, Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Half Past Autumn: The Life and Art of Gordon Parks Profiles Gordon Parks (b. 1912) and his multifaceted, lifelong career in the arts. Best known, as a photojournalist with LIFE magazine, Mr. Parks has documented the plight of the poor, the lives of the famous, and the looks of the fashion elite. 12-minute video.  Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Henry Ossawa Tanner Traces the life of American painter Henry O. Tanner (1859--1937) and discusses the many difficulties he faced as a black artist. In 1893 he began painting African-American genre scenes and then specialized in biblical subjects. 12-minute video.  "From 19th-century America to the salons and ateliers of turn-of-the-century Paris, Henry Ossawa Tanner overcame obstacles of race and art to become one of the greatest American painters of his time. This captivating video, narrated by Julian Bond, features Tanner's paintings, personal photographs, original music, and rare footage of the artist in Paris in the 1930s. The program brings Tanner to life, celebrating his achievement, his courage, and his humanity. It was produced by the Tanner Film Group, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Recommended for art history, social studies, and African-American studies classes "
Highwaymen: Florida's Outsider Artists, The is a 58 minute story of a group of young, untrained African-American landscape painters that emerged from the small central Florida town of Fort Pierce in the late 50s and early 60s. Segregation and racist attitudes of the time prevented them from working with traditional art galleries. Instead, they traveled throughout the state selling their paintings out of the trunks of their cars. The Highwaymen had no pretensions about their art. They saw themselves as craftsmen, painting pictures strictly to earn a living. They mainly painted Florida back-country scenes -- coastal savannahs, hardwood hammocks, lonely tannin-stained rivers... expansive skies, capacious clouds, using bold strokes of dramatic colors. Theirs is an inspirational story of ingenuity and entrepreneurship, and ultimately, of perseverance in the face of societal limitations.
Horace Pippin: There Will Be Peace Observes the work of Horace Pippin (1888--1946), a self-taught African-American artist whose paintings reflected his own life and concerns. 28-minute video 
Influences and Abberations of the African-American Visual Artist (video produced by Indianapolis Museum of Art)
I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin Documents the life and work of African-American painter Horace Pippin (1888-1946). Traces his childhood interest in drawing. During service in World War I, Pippin painted combat scenes as well as portraits of fellow soldiers. 24-minute video. Description source: Amon Carter Museum Teacher Resource Center
Jacob Lawrence: An Intimate Portrait, a 25 minute 1993 video produced by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is an engaging collage of the interior and exterior lives of one of America's most influential artists. The video interweaves talks with the charismatic Lawrence, wife, Gwendolyn Knight, colleagues, and critics, with the painter's own magnificent works. Jacob Lawrence: An Intimate Portrait was produced to accompany the 1993 exhibition Jacob Lawrence: The Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman Series of Narrative Paintings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles, California, which was organized by the Hampton University Museum in Hampton, Virginia. Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Jacob Lawrence: Glory of Expression 28 minute / 1993 / L&S - "This is a documentary about the life and work of one of America's great contemporary painters, Jacob Lawrence. The first African American to be represented by a New York gallery, Lawrence discusses the epic narratives he paints. He explains the importance of motivation and determination in successfully creating art and the emphasis placed on the emotional aspects of art." Narrated by Ossie Davis, Created and Produced by Linda Freeman, Written and Directed by David Irving. ISBN 1-882660-04-8 Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
John Biggers' Hampton Murals: Stories of Illumination and Growth from Hampton Roads Public Broadcasting, produced by Cinebar Productions, was well received, garnering an Emmy nomination and winning the Gold Apple at the National Educational Film and Video Festival. 29 minutes 1992 copyright Hampton University Museum. "John Biggers, artist, educator, and former Hampton University student, completed a 2-panel mural for his alma mater in 1992, and it now hangs in the new campus library as an inspiration to the university community. This video documents the creative process involved and, through interviews with Biggers, explains the multitude of images depicted. The left side of the mural, the House of the Turtle, conveys historical elements while the Treehouse on the right is a prayer for the future of African-Americans. Viewed on one level as a story, the mural also becomes a metaphor for transition and growth. Biggers, in his use of recurring symbols based in African art and lore, creates complex layers of meaning as an explanation of the "everchanging dance of life." Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
John Biggers Journeys Features the art of John Biggers. 75 minutes (collection of Joslyn Art Museum)
Kindred Spirits: Contemporary African-American Artists: 30 minutes 1992. "The cultural legacy that black Americans inherited from their African ancestors remains an active force in their art in the latter quarter of the 20th century. The voices and artworks of several contemporary African-American artists (John Biggers, Charles Searles, Bessie Harvey, Renee Stout, Jean Lacy, Ed Love, and Lois Mailou Jones) are interspersed with remarks and poetry recitation by Maya Angelou. This program is based on the highly acclaimed exhibition Black Art: Ancestral Legacy, organized by the Dallas Museum of Art in 1989." Produced by KERA-TV and based on the highly acclaimed exhibition, Black Art: Ancestral Legacy organized by the Dallas Museum of Art. Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Life and Art of William H. Johnson, The. William H. Johnson was one of the first black painters to struggle with the relationship between the visual heritage of his African roots and his European artistic training. This visual biography is the fascinating story of what it was like to be a black artist in the 1920s through the 1940s, weaving together the social history of the time and Johnson's art. The 25 minute program also includes eight museum reproductions of Johnson's paintings, plus a Grades 5-12 teacher's guide. "Profiles American painter William H. Johnson (1901--1970), one of the first African-American painters to receive European training. Part 1 -- "Chronology of Life and Art," relates the difficulties of being an African-American painter in the 1920s through the 1940s. Part 2 -- "Art Appreciation Lessons," examines the work of Johnson and discusses his style, working methods, humor, and the influence of African sculpture in his work." Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
M & M Smith: For Posterity's Sake, a 57-minute presentation of the Independent Television Service (ITVS), narrated by Ruby Dee. "Born in Nicholsville, Kentucky on February 16, 1910, the identical twins and sons of sharecroppers moved to Lexington, Kentucky twelve years later. They set up a photo studio in the basement of their home, using an inexpensive camera given to them as a gift by a local photographer. In search of better opportunities for blacks to study art, they moved to New York in 1933. The Smiths found a flourishing art community in Harlem supported by the Federal Arts Program, an arm of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and enrolled in a free art school run by sculptor Augusta Savage, mentor to aspiring artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight, Selma Burke, Ernest Crichlow and Robert Blackburn. Through Savage, they soon met such notable literary figures as Countee Cullen, Claude McKay and Langston Hughes. During the mid-1930s they studied art on their own while experimenting with street photography and submitting photos of Harlem social and political events to African-American newspapers." (quote from article in Resource Library)
Persistent Women Artists. In this 28 minute 1996 program artist Betty LaDuke captures in conversations the spirit of three American women artists of diverse heritages: Pablita Verlade, Mine Okubo and Louis Mailou Jones. Their paintings, drawings, lithographs and murals reflect their experiences as Native- , Asian- and African-American women.
Portrait of an Artist: Faith Ringgold,The Last Story Quilt. This program provides an insider's look at how Faith Ringgold has worked to master her craft and communicate her vision. She presents a realistic view of the black female in society. Ringgold spent years painting until she turned to soft sculptures, masks mural and quilts that tell a story. 28 minutes. (quote courtesy Plains Art Msueum)
Proportions of Value: The Houston Murals of John T. Biggers Observes the nine Houston murals of artist John Biggers (b. 1924) that reflect the artist's interest in important figures in African-American history and the influence of African art upon his work. 8-minute video. Description source: Amon Carter Museum Teacher Resource Center. The Museum contains a comprehensive lending library including many videos. TFAO wishes to extend appreciation to Katherine Moloney, Teaching and Visual Resources Coordinator, for acquainting TFAO with the Museum's collection.
Romare Bearden: Visual Jazz Reveals the work of American artist Romare Bearden (1914--1988) as he creates a collage and describes his approach: first, creating abstract relations of form and color, then adding specific imagery to produce feeling. Musician Wynton Marsalis compares the way Bearden translated experience to the jazz musician's technique of improvisation. Although Bearden loved music, there were many other influences on his art which showed a combination of rural and urban experiences and which employed many different styles. 28-minute L&S video.  Available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
Similar Differences: Betye and Alison Saar, 10-minute video from Fellows of Contemporary Art , 1990 (information courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art Teacher Resource Center Catalogue)
Spirit-Catcher: The Art of Betye Saar (28 min) This intriguing film probes the art, the spirit, the symbols, and the revelations of assemblage artist Betye Saar. In developing her art, she has had to face the double prejudices of sexism and racism. What has emerged is the simultaneous penetration of old and new levels of black awareness. Her constructions use astrology, the occult, fetishes, and historical photographs." From the series Originals: Women in Art, The: 1977 
Stories of Illumination and Growth: John Biggers' Murals, is a 28 minute video distributed by Cinebar Productions that provides a visual documentation of John Bigger's creation of a mural at Hampton University in 1991.
Two Centuries of Black American Art. Pyramid Film & Video. collection of Williamsburg Research Libraries 26 minutes
Uncommon Beauty in Common Objects: The Legacy Of African-American Craft is a video available through the Sullivan Video Library at The Speed Art Museum which holds a sizable collection of art-related videos available to educators at no charge.
What Color is Black... African American Art and The David C. Driskell Collection: 30 minutes 2001. "This thought-provoking video addresses the questions: What is Black Art? What has its role been historically, and in the 20th century? And how will it change in the future? It was produced on the occasion of the exhibition Narratives of African American Art and Identity: The David C. Driskell Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts surveying African American art from 1870-1997. Contains works by Edward Bannister, Charles Ethan Porter, Robert Scott Duncanson, Aaron Douglas, Romare Bearden, James van der Zee, Michael Harris, Jerome Meadows, and Stephanie Pogue. Narrated by Daphne Maxwell Reid of New Millennium Studios."
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1. Quotes are from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the National Gallery of Art.
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