NORTH OMAHA Visual Arts
If "art is the mirror of society," what do Omaha's black artists tell us about society?
"Art lives and has value... it has meaning, it has expression."
Project created by: Salma B. Taran C. and Tierra C.
Photographer Rudy Smith is a well known artist whose work for the Omaha World-Herald took him around the world. He uses his camera to capture and explore the artistic value of North Omaha’s African American culture. This photograph, of church ladies in their hats, represents how churches make up a large part of the community in North Omaha. In this image, Smith shows African American women expressing their individuality through the fashions they display while attending church. This photo reflects the black culture of the community and the constantly changing styles of the church community. (Image courtesy of Rudy Smith)
Sculptor Littleton Alston’s work has been instrumental in efforts to increase the presence of public art Omaha. This article, a 1997 profile from the Omaha World-Herald, traces Alston’s artistic linage back to the Harlem Renaissance and describes how his art celebrates African-American culture and history. In this piece Alston says, “Art is the mirror of society. It shows thought and feeling. It leads. It directs. It influences.” Although Alston is not a native to Omaha, his contributions to the visual arts in this community cannot be ignored. (Image Courtesy of the Douglas County Historical Society)
Printmaker Wanda Ewing was an Omaha native and an alumna of Omaha Benson High School. She was an Assistant Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. A versatile artist, she explored the subjects of race, gender, beauty standards, sexuality, and identity. This print is part of her collection entitled "Hairdos." She created a self-portrait using a wood block print, which left the top of her head blank. She then added a different hairdo to each image, representing a variety of identities. This print with flowing long orange hair was the first self-portrait she made to highlight the role of hair in beauty and identity. Because her artwork questions beauty standards, her work is often thought provoking and sometimes shocking. Wanda passed away in 2013. (Image courtesy of Wanda Ewing)
Resources and Further Reading:
Alston Sculpture. https://www.alstonsclupture.com
Brown, Rick. "MONA Curator Spent Five Years to Assemble First-ever Exhibit of Black Neb. Artists." Kearney Hub (Kearney, NE), January 27, 2011.
Hildebrand, Jennifer. “The New Negro Movement in Lincoln, Nebraska.” Nebraska History 91, nos. 3 and 4 (Fall/Winter 2010): 166-89.
Patton, Sharon F. "The Search for Identity 1950-1987." In African-American Artists, 1880-1987: Selections from the Evans-Tibbs Collection, edited by Sharon F. Patton, Guy C. McElroy, and Richard J. Powell, 73-111. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, in association with University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1989.
Smith, Rudy. "I Am Black." Omaha World-Herald (Omaha, NE), May 23, 1971, 34.
Wanderland Press. www.wandaewing.com