not but nothing other: African-American Portrayals, 1930s to Today

Ed Wilson (1925-1996)
Cybele, 1954

Ed Wilson is warmly remembered on campus as the founder of Harpur College’s studio art program, but he carved Cybele a decade before his arrival to Binghamton. In 1954 Wilson had only recently completed his master’s degree at the University of Iowa—attending thanks to the G.I. Bill—where, inspired by the example of Elizabeth Catlett, who had studied there fifteen years earlier, he first turned to sculpture. Cybele was made in Durham, North Carolina, where Wilson had taken up a teaching position at North Carolina College, a Black liberal arts institution.

Twenty years later, David Driskell would include this sculpture in his groundbreaking exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1976. In the catalogue, he described how Wilson had “simplified and generalized” the figure of Cybele, the Great Mother of the Gods, “to create a unique combination of monumentality and voluptuousness.”

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