Painter

Camille Billops, Who Filmed Her Mother-Daughter Struggle, Dies at 85

Camille Billops in 1994. She was an internationally recognized artist, but she gained the most attention for a movie she made about giving her daughter up for adoption. Credit: Steve Walters | The New York Times

Camille Billops in 1994. She was an internationally recognized artist, but she gained the most attention for a movie she made about giving her daughter up for adoption.
Credit: Steve Walters | The New York Times

By Katharine Q. Seelye

Camille Billops knew from a young age that she did not want to be a mother. And when she had a baby, she gave her up for adoption, when the girl was 4.

Ms. Billops would go on to become an internationally recognized sculptor, painter and filmmaker. She held salons and created extensive archives of black cultural life in New York over several decades.

But Ms. Billops, who died on June 1 at 85, gained the most attention for a movie she made about giving up her daughter. She was resolutely unapologetic about the decision, even as society judged her harshly and wanted her to repent.

The movie, “Finding Christa” (1992), which she directed with her husband, James V. Hatch, documented Ms. Billops’s rejection of her daughter and their reunion 20 years later. Christa Victoria, a vibrant and artistic young woman who was raised by a loving adoptive family in Oakland, Calif., was welcomed back into the Billops fold.

Ms. Billops saw the lives of black women as endurance contests, struggles to survive abusive or alcoholic men, and children as part of the yoke that kept women from being free.

“I didn’t admire motherhood,” Ms. Billops said.

Ms. Billops was more interested in becoming an artist. She went to the University of Southern California to study art and occupational therapy. But she soon found herself pregnant. The father was a handsome Air Force lieutenant who said he would marry her — 500 wedding invitations were sent out — but who skipped town instead.

Read the full article here.

All best, and condolences to Camille Billops’s family.

Joe Overstreet, Painter and Activist, Is Dead at 85

Joe Overstreet with his painting “North Star” (1968). Joe Overstreet/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, via Eric Firestone Gallery, New York. - The New York Times

Joe Overstreet with his painting “North Star” (1968).
Joe Overstreet/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, via Eric Firestone Gallery, New York. - The New York Times

By Holland Cotter

Like many of his fellow African-American artists, he infused his work with burning political issues of the 1960s and ’70s.

Joe Overstreet, an artist and activist who in the 1960s took abstract painting into the sculptural dimension and later created a home in New York for artists who had been ignored by the mainstream, died on June 4 in Manhattan. He was 85.

His Manhattan gallery, Eric Firestone, said the cause was heart failure.

Mr. Overstreet belonged to a generation of contemporary African-American visual artists who came of age in the civil rights era and addressed the burning political issues of the day in a wide variety of forms and styles, from overt protest work to the subtlest geometric abstraction.

He was particularly notable for removing canvases from the wall and suspending them in space, giving painting a sculptural dimension. He saw such pieces as, among other things, experiments in how to situate art and viewers in physical space.

Mr. Overstreet’s work in the 1960s and ’70s coincided with debates about the direction African-American art should take. One side insisted that it should be direct in its political content; the other argued that cultural progress demanded that artists be free to choose their modes of expression.

Mr. Overstreet, who was deeply involved in the Black Arts Movement, negotiated the divide inventively. Even his most abstract-looking work had implicit political dimensions. His cultural references were often to non-Western sources, ancient and modern: Islamic design, African patterning, South Asian mandalas.

Read the full article here.