Songwriter, artist, art activist, advocate and promoter of numerous artists, Romare Bearden gave back to the African-American arts community as one of the founding members of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1970, as well as the world in many ways. He was born in Charlotte; grew up in Harlem and attributes many of his works of art to his childhood memories of Harlem and places he visited as a child. Romare used a variety of materials to make his art; he is best known for his collage work, although he did achieve success in other media and techniques, as well. His collage’s “Madeline Jones’ Wonderful Garden”, “Palm Sunday Procession”, and “Pittsburg Memory” are three pieces of art that show some of the different materials he used when making his compositions as well as some of his childhood memories.
When looking at “Madeline Jones’ Garden”, a mess of color is the first thing to catch the eye; the women holding the baby starts to come into focus after a moment, and then the flowers that were cut and pasted in the background. This piece almost looks like a mess of papers pasted on fiberboard when glancing at it; after a moment the shapes come together and the image of the women allows a relationship to be formed and other things to be recognized. Romare used various papers with ink, graphite, and surface abrasion on fiberboard to create this work of art.
Looking at “Palm Sunday Procession”, the first thing to catch the eye is the men worshiping something; the collage appears unified, in how the men are portrayed and in the way the different pieces of newspaper and construction paper have been colored, cut, and pasted to the fiberboard a layered look is attained. The figures are standing in line and all facing the same direction with their hands together in a worshiping or praying manor; looking past the familiar figures of men, the figure of a child on the shoulders of one of the men, the details of the head dress’s, feet, and legs begin to come into focus. In this piece he used various papers with paint on fiberboard.
“Pittsburg Memory” is a favorite out of the three because one can see that he used a number of different pieces of pictures to make the figures and background into an amazing composition. The first thing to catch the eye in this piece would be the eyes in the faces because they are not in portion with the rest of the face; having been made from a number of newspaper clippings and pieces of printed paper. The ‘city like’ setting in the background begins to come into focus as the mind allows the images to come together. In this work of art the materials used were printed papers and graphite on cardboard.
Romare once explained the way he brings a collage together as, “I use many disparate elements to form a figure, or part of a background” and in his art, one can see these elements come together after all of the cutting and pasting. He continued in saying, ”I feel that when some photographic detail such as a hand or an eye, is taken out of its original context and is fractured and integrated into a different space and form configuration, it acquires a plastic quality that it did not have in the original”. Romare cuts and pastes materials to make a collage; in some pieces he will add graphite, charcoal, and paint to complete a work of art. For more information about Romare Bearden visit http://www.beardenfoundation.org/artlife/biography/biography.shtml