Harriet, by Charles White, 1972

Charles White Harriet, 1972

Medium: Oil wash on board
Dimensions: 53 5/16 x 47 1/4 in. (135.4 x 120 cm)
Credit Line: Private collection. Photo by Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART, Courtesy of the artist and Alexander Gray Associates

Harriet depicts a woman in a three-quarter view, swathed in cloth, peering out with a skeptical gaze. In this work, as well as in its companion piece, Mississippi, White blends thoughts about the civil rights struggles in the American South with his own family history. The subject of White's portrait is a composite of his aunts Harriet and Hasty Baines, who both lived in the South. But it also references Harriet Tubman, who led many enslaved people to freedom in the nineteenth century, a figure White returned to over the years in numerous works. The splatter of red paint above Harriet's head signifies the violence of the history of slavery while also referencing the contemporary period. With Harriet and Mississippi, White created a link between the civil rights movement and the struggle for freedom from slavery.

Chicago Manual of Style
citation for this page
"Harriet." Now Dig This! Art in Black Los Angeles, 1960–1980 Digital Archive. Los Angeles: Hammer Museum, 2016. https://hammer.ucla.edu/now-dig-this/art/harriet.