Emma Amos (American, 1937-2020)
etching, aquatint, and styrene stencil
23 ¼ x 21 ¼ in. (59.06 x 53.98 cm)
Museum Purchase, Barbara Cooney Porter Fund, 2021.13 © Emma Amos; Courtesy RYAN LEE Gallery, New York.
“It’s always been my contention that, for me, a Black woman artist, to walk into the studio is a political act.” – Emma Amos
Artist, educator, and activist Emma Amos devoted her artistic career to exploring the issues of representation, racism, and sexism. Her work often provides a new lens from which to explore certain artistic conventions. As noted by curator Shelley Langdale ‘85, Pool Lady references the “bather” subject found throughout the history of art. Largely absent from this history, however, are women of African descent. Here Amos presents her take on the trope of the bather: a Black woman, confidently posed with a hand on her hip and an alert, direct gaze. Unlike most depictions of bathers, Amos intentionally chose to portray her subject clothed. She often avoided depicting Black women nude due to associations with sexual exploitation during American slavery. Amos took great care to render the woman’s skin, choosing rich brown tones to highlight the variety of hues found in the African diaspora.