Laura Jean Lacy (b. 1932)
Bring Our Souls to Life, 1975
Bring Our Souls to Life (made in 1975, signed and dated in 1982) by the Dallas-based artist Laura Jean Lacy is an engaging, mixed-media collage that represents the resurrection of the African American spirit. Referencing both the celebration of the Day of the Dead and voodoo culture in the African American South, the scene is situated in an old New Orleans cemetery with elaborately adorned aboveground tombs. The resurrected souls of black figures from the past, including an anonymous World War I soldier and famous 19th-century leaders, such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, emerge from the tombs and into the present. When viewed up close, one can see the individual expressions of the figures. They cry, look mournful, shocked, or angry, and all express the emotional struggle of African Americans.
Whether she is creating traditional collages, found-object sculptures, or designs for stained-glass windows, Lacy uses a collage aesthetic. To create this collage, the artist cut images from contemporary issues of Life, Look, and Time magazines and pasted them onto a painted canvas. She placed a diverse range of figures on the surface to create a unified scene.
Bring Our Souls to Life documents and illustrates Lacy’s own interests and artistic influences, including the culture of New Orleans and the civil rights movement. Although she was born and raised in Washington, D.C., Lacy attended Southern University in Baton Rouge, where she was exposed to the Southern African American culture. Because of her interest in her African roots, the artist uses many African-inspired cultural forms, and she often chooses themes in her works that connect the past and the present. Many of Lacy’s artworks also reflect her interest in blending the religious and the secular. During the 1960s and 1970s, the artist was connected to the black church through her husband at the time, Nathaniel Lacy, a Methodist minister in Los Angeles and Dallas. Her original work in collage was used in interracial dialogue sessions for black church groups in Los Angeles.
For further reading:
Farrington, Lisa E. Creating Their Own Image: The History of African-American Women Artists. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.
Wardlaw, Alvia, et. al. Black Art Ancestral Legacy: The African Impulse in Afro-American Art. Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1989. Print.
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