September 2, 2022 | Barron’s
Black Women of Print’s LaToya Hobbs in the Spotlight at IFPDA Print Fair
Baltimore-based artist LaToya Hobbs was drawn to printmaking when she was a student at the University of Arkansas after a professor introduced her to Elizabeth Catlett, the late sculptor and printmaker whose works captured the experience of Black women.
“Dignity, beauty, power—those are the words that come to mind when I see her imagery, and also this sense of empowerment,” Hobbs says. “The idea of telling stories of Black women in an authentic way is something I personally am striving to do in my work.”
Visitors to the annual fair of the International Fine Print Dealers Association, or IFPDA, in October at the Javits Center in New York, will see how this inspiration infuses Hobbs’ work in an 8-by-12-feet detailed relief carving Hobbs is still in the process of creating. The work was commissioned by the fair with support from the IFPDA Foundation.
Genette’s Daughters depicts six standing women who the artist knew as the babies and young children of the pastor of her church in Fayetteville, Ark., when she was attending the University of Arkansas. Hobbs had seen a photo of the women on social media and asked the pastor if she could do an art piece based on the image.
“I’m interested in uplifting the stories of women who are significant to me in my community,” Hobbs says.
The artist’s contribution to the fair also includes a series of portraits of seven artists who were the initial members of Black Women of Print, an organization founded by Milwaukee-based artist and educator Tanekeya Word four years ago to support and make visible the work of mid-career and established artists in the field. Hobbs’ series of seven 36-by-24-inch works in acrylic and collaged paper on carved wood were shown at “What the Mirror Said,” a March 7-April 14 exhibition of print-related works by several Black Women of Print artists at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.
Hobbs, herself, began her university art studies as a painter, but she was drawn to the possibilities within printmaking by her encounter with Catlett’s work. She also liked the texture and “sense of immediacy” with relief printmaking, which she prefers to do with wood. “The carving aspect is a special and magical process,” Hobbs says. Over time, she became “enthralled with the actual wood piece” and wondered why it couldn’t be the art object itself instead of the printed work on paper.
Today, Hobbs is most interested in mixed media and including elements of painting and printmaking in her work, such as large relief carvings that are presented as paintings.
At the time of the IFPDA Print Fair, the Metropolitan Museum of Art will exhibit Continuum, 2019, a portfolio of 13 numbered and signed editions of seven prints published by Black Women of Print and created by the seven initial members who are the subject of Hobbs’ portraits. Each member created a work related to a Black women printmaker who inspired them. Since somebody picked Catlett before she could, Hobbs jokes, her piece took the artist Margaret Taylor Burroughs as a starting point for a woodcut titled Mrs. Burroughs.
The portfolio is meant to represent “a continuum of Black women’s thoughts and how as Black women we use visual language through the medium of printmaking to pay homage and to reimagine.”
The IFPDA will offer a VIP private tour of the Johnson Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 10 a.m. on Oct. 27—during the fair—to view Continuum and Highpoint Editions Five Beauties Rising by Willie Cole.
A catalyst for creating Black Women of Print was the relationship between Catlett and Burroughs, who were about the same age, Hobbs says. The idea was to have “a kind of sisterhood,” of fellow artists who can offer support and share ideas, whether about print-making techniques or their experience as Black women creatives, she says.
For Hobbs, being part of this group of practicing artists, including a second cohort of members, has provided her and others with a constant resource that they can access through the website or through conversation channels such as Discord. Members help one another with problem-solving techniques, planning for exhibitions, and are there to “cheer each other on,” Hobbs says. “You see people being successful and making strides in their own individual practices.”
The IFPDA Print Fair will host 76 exhibitors at the Javits Center on Manhattan’s far west side from Oct. 27-30. A panel on Black Women of Print moderated by Kimberli Gant, curator, at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, will be at 1:30 pm on Friday, Oct. 28.