'Sisters' Eyes' offers fine glimpse of black women's art for children

April 13, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

The title explains it perfectly: "Through Sisters' Eyes: Children's Books Illustrated by African-American Women Artists." The admirable idea behind the show was to give children -- all children, really -- a sense that children's books aren't only by and for whites but can relate to the African-American experience.

Organized by the library of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, the show is well put together and just big enough. The walls of the large second-floor gallery of the Peale Museum are hung with originals of the eight artists' works, and their books fill cases in the center of the room, equipped with steps so little kids can see in, too.

The show's 10 artists are all award-winners, and some are quite well-known. Aside from children's books, Faith Ringgold has achieved recognition for her original art that combines quilt-making and storytelling. And Lois Mailou Jones, born in 1905, was a leading African-American modernist artist 50 years ago.

Another of the artists, Carole Byard, is in Baltimore this week to teach at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Byard, also a sculptor, teaches at the Parsons School of Design in New York. She has traveled extensively in Africa and has illustrated a number of children's books reflecting African culture, including "Africa Dream," "Three African Tales" and "Nomi and the Magic Fish."

"I wanted to illustrate books relevant to the lives of black children, because I could not find them when I was growing up," she has said.

For this cheerful installation, artists Linda DePalma, Paul Daniel and Angela Franklin have taken children and animals from the illustrations, blown them up in solid form and suspended them from the ceiling; they have used the elaborately costumed sculptures of artist Irma Talabi Francis to add a note of drama and mystery.

CHILDREN'S BOOKS

Where: The Peale Museum, 225 Holliday St.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Through Dec. 10.

Admission: $1.75 adults, $1.25 seniors, 75 cents ages 6 to 18.

Call: (410) 396-1149.

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