Lawdy Mama

Barkley L. Hendricks (1945–2017) Lawdy Mama, 1969 Oil and gold leaf on canvas 53 3/4 × 36 1/4 in. The Studio Museum in Harlem; gift of Stuart Liebman, in memory of Joseph B. Liebman 1983.25

One of Barkley Hendricks’s earliest portraits, Lawdy Mama imbues the Black feminine form with integrity, while also alluding to Byzantine and medieval religious icons. Elevating the Black figure to a subject worthy of veneration, the artist draws a visual comparison between his sitter and iconic depictions of Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, and other women of the Black Power movement in the 1960s. The painting, which depicts the artist’s cousin, also comments on the overall lack of painted representations of Black bodies.