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Dawn E Reno

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Edmonia Lewis: The Sculptor They Called Wildfire
by Dawn E Reno   

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Publisher:  Bookmice ISBN-10:  1930364695 Type: 


Copyright:  May 1 2000

Barnes &
Author and Associate Professor, Dawn Reno

Born of a Native American mother and African American father, Edmonia Lewis fought against all kinds of odds in pre-Civil War America to become a famous artist.

Edmonia Lewis, the first person of color to exhibit her art work in a major U.S. exhibit, lived most of her life outside the United States because of the prejudices of her time. Born before the Civil War, she went to college at the tender age of 13, was accused of poisoning a classmate, was represented by one of the best known lawyers of the time, and was declared innocent. But that's just the beginning of her story. Drawn to the arts, she began sculpting in Boston, creating a bust of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, leader of an African American regiment, and studied in Boston for a while before moving on to Rome. Her life story is told by her friend, Harriet Hosmer, another artist and American, and it is through Hosmer's description of Lewis's life that we follow Edmonia back to the United States and her greatest triumph. Excerpt
When I first met Edmonia Lewis, I, Harriet Hosmer, was one of America's best known female artists. It was hard being a woman in the art world then. The Civil War raged all around us. Things were different than they are today. Women were supposed to simply take care of their families. Education was left to the men. Yet, the world was even more difficult for my dear friend, Edmonia, than it was for the rest of us women.

We lived in Rome then, and Edmonia was quite a figure. She wore a red cap atop her straight black hair, and her homemade clothing often scattered dust from working in her studio. She was an artist, a sculptor, and she had an artist's personality. For that reason, Europeans were fascinated by her. Her dark skin and intelligent mind drew curious people to her like hummingbirds to a nectar-filled flower. Famous Americans like the writers Herman Melville, Mark Twain, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow visited her studio. The Pope even blessed her work! And through it all, Edmonia continued to create sculptures that the world admired.

As Edmonia and I became closer friends, she told me of her life as the child of a Chippewa maiden and an African-American freedman. I have often thought Edmonia was one of the bravest and most talented women I have ever known. That is why I want to tell you her story exactly as she told it to me.

Professional Reviews

Cindy Penn, Word Weaving
In EDMONIA LEWIS: THE SCULPTOR THEY CALLED "WILDFIRE," Dawn E. Reno writes about the extraordinary life of Edmonia Lewis, a child of the mixed races of African American and Chippewa. In the 1800s, the time of her birth, a woman was not highly educated, nor was she a sculptor. But Edmonia Lewis was both.

In this nonfiction short story, artist Harriet Hosmer gives voice to the life of her extraordinary friend. Edmonia, who retained her native American name of Wildfire, lived a life seldom dreamed of in her era. She attended college at Oberlin College, something a woman, particularly of mixed blood, just didn't do back then. While in college she was accused of poisoning her two best friends. She even introduced herself to Lloyd Garrison, the editor of The Liberator, a well-known newspaper which led to her career of a sculptor.

As a student of art history, I was enchanted by this brief look into the life of such an exceptional woman, a role model woman may yet wish to follow for her vision and strength

Huntress Book Reviews
A short story of a wonderful and brave young woman, who, had the heart to follow her dreams, to make them a reality, in spite of prejudice and the disadvantages she has of her time, she strove to be what she wanted to be, and she found her dreams. She had courage and love and warmth and these things showed in her sculptures. She was admired by many people. Especially great for children!

Kim's Reviews
Dawn Reno has given a heart wrenching account of Edmonia Lewis: The Sculptor They Called "Wildfire." Life was terribly difficult for the young woman known as Wildfire. She finds herself taken from her Indian Reservation and delivered to Oberlin College, knowing no one. Edmonia knows she has a destiny to fulfill, but not quite sure what it is. After being beaten and charged for murder, Edmonia discovers her desire for sculpting. She doesn't allow prejudices to stand in her way and continues to succeed, becoming one of the world's most acclaimed Women Sculptors. Edmonia Lewis is truly a inspiration to all women.

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