Well known for her figurative sculptures in wood, bronze, stone, and clay, Elizabeth Catlett was also an accomplished printmaker working both in intaglio and relief. As early as 1946, Catlett went to Mexico City with her then-husband, Charles White, to study printmaking at the Taller de Gráfica Popular (The People’s Print Workshop). Printmaking was essential to Catlett in its relationship and sometimes opposition to her sculpture and its affordability and accessibility to the masses. As a left-wing activist, she went under investigation by the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee during the 1950s, which, along with severe racial injustices, prompted her to take Mexican citizenship in 1962. The influence of Mexican and African American culture is blended beautifully in her canon of sculpture and graphic works.
This linocut, based on a photograph by Dorothea Lange titled Ex-Slave with Long Memory, Alabama (c. 1937), depicts a solitary black woman looking off into the distance. A striking image illustrates strength and perseverance in the face of hardship, common themes Catlett returned to throughout her impressive career.