Star Gazer, 1997
14 ½ x 32 x 11 inches
Catlett focused almost exclusively on African American women as the subject of her sculptures. No matter what material she employed—and Catlett was skilled with mahogany, limestone, cedar, bronze, black marble, and terra cotta—her women are always strong, powerful figures. Often their heads are titled upwards, depicting Catlett’s belief in their ability to persevere and overcome. As she once said, “I have always wanted my art to service my people—to reflect us, to relate to us, to stimulate us, to make us aware of our potential.”
Star Gazer is an important marble by Catlett. One of her later works, it maintains the strength seen in Catlett’s earliest mother and child subjects and is perhaps autobiographical. The figure’s posture is that of someone at ease with her position in the world—confident, yet still a dreamer. By this point in her life Catlett was an established artist, her sculptures and prints were collected by many major museums, and a 50-year retrospective of her work was about to open. She remained active in her later years and continued to be an engaging speaker, a powerful figure—not unlike her sculptures.