CHLOE JUNG '23, Class of 1954 Director's Intern
Hood Quarterly, spring 2022
Winfred Rembert was a self-taught African American artist best known for creating vibrant works of art using hand tools and shoe dye on tanned-leather canvases—a technique he learned in prison. Born in 1945 in Cuthbert, Georgia, Rembert grew up in the rural Jim Crow South and began laboring in the cotton fields by the age of six. While imprisoned, he also learned to read and write from other incarcerated people. Most notably, he acquired the skill of fashioning and dyeing leather products, such as wallets and purses, the technique he later repurposed as his iconic art style. He spent most of his adult life living and working in New Haven, Connecticut, with his wife and children, creating art and lecturing at Yale University.
This work portrays a richly colorful and dynamic scene of cottonfield laborers. Having worked in a cotton field himself for much of his childhood, Rembert drew from his own experiences to create works of art. The curving lines and figural forms create an energetic, diagonal composition across the canvas. With alternating orange stripes and stretched figures, it has a rhythmic organization. Incised marks and impressions reveal the tactile surface of the leather itself, defining strong lines that distinguish the individual motifs.