Augusta Savage: the modernism sculptured in the clay


Gamin 1921, by Augusta Savage

Augusta Savage, known as a famous sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance, used her hands and clay to demonstrate modernism and to lead the human rights movement. Augusta was born in Florida and was interested in sculpture. However, sculpture could not provide her a stable living in Florida since she was a single mother. Augusta moved to Harlem, New York, which provided her more opotunities to develop her sculpturing skills; she was then chosen to study sculpture in Paris. The French, however, denied her application based on her race, but her amazing skills attracted famous sculptors to teach her. After August’s hard workin, she became the first African American elected to the National Association of Women Painters as well as Sculptors and the first director of the Harlem Community Art Center.

One of her famous sculpture is called Gamin, which is a portrait of a black boy in 1920s. Gamin, as a name, is commonly applied to street urchins who are often the subjects of paintings and literature in the nineteenth century. If looking closely, we can tell this boy is crying. This piece of art is not simply a boy, but also represent something deeply meaningful: if thinking about the 1920s, you can tell it was the time of racial segregation in America. The crying face of the black boy is a symbol of the whole black people society, who was born to be treated differently and had unequal rights to white people. As a representative of modernism, this piece of art also portrays a sense of loneliness and alienation. Without audience’s engagement, the detail of crying is really hard to understand. This sculpture also requires reader’s decoding of fragmentary content, as an element of Modernism.

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