Stepping Out


Elizabeth Catlett, a printmaker and sculptor, bridged most the century by creating art that celebrated humanity. Her works drew from African, African American, Native American, and Mexican styles of art. While earning her M.F.A. from the University of Iowa, her teacher, the regionalist painter Grant Wood, had profound influence on her. He encouraged her to "paint what you know." For Catlett, that was the mother-daughter bond and the black woman, both constant motifs in her work. In 1940, she and two other students earned the first Master of Fine Arts degrees from the University of Iowa.

Stepping Out epitomizes Catlett's ability to turn a depiction of an ordinary woman into a sculpture that emulates a strong human spirit and evokes compassion. The figure's voluptuous curves and dynamic folds in her dress are characteristic of Catlett's work. However, its shapely, female form does not erotize the figure; instead it endows it with strength and references fecundity. This work speaks to Catlett's various influences and her unique personal style of sculpture.