Inge Hardison, left, in 1957, with a sculpture she donated to Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Her daughter, Yolande, unveils the work, with the help of Martin R. Steinberg, hospital director (Credit Allyn Baum/The New York Times)
During my time in New York, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with many interesting and creative figure models, all of whom contributed to my collaborative myth-making project. One model who came to my studio to participate was Yolande Hardison, who truly entered into the spirit of the collaboration, working with another model called Daniel to create dynamic and theatrical scenes that I certainly couldn’t have conceived of alone. The 2 hour session in my studio with Yolande and Daniel was enormous fun, with lots of laughter and creativity.
Yolande Hardison with a poster cataloguing some of her late mother Inge Hardison’s achievements
After our collaboration was over, Yolande told me a little bit about her mother, the late sculptor, photographer and actress Ruth Inge Hardison (you can see the two of them together in 1957, in the image at the top of this blog post). Yolande spoke about her mother’s work with such passion and enthusiasm, painting a vivid picture of what Inge Hardison was like as a person. Yolande is currently in the process of planning a book about her mother’s career, in which she hopes to provide insight into Inge Hardison’s life from the perspective of a daughter who loved her and knew her well – offering a different sort of reading experience to art books that tend to only focus on the professional, rather than the personal.
Yolande’s apartment, packed with her mother’s art
A week after her modelling session, Yolande was kind enough to invite my boyfriend Brian and I to her apartment on the upper West side of Manhattan, where we were given the opportunity to see some of her mother’s work. The living room was packed with an array of sculptures from every stage of Inge Hardison’s career, the walls covered in her black-and-white photographs that beautifully captured the everyday lives of people in her community. As well as preserving and displaying her mother’s artwork, Yolande has started the time-consuming process of cataloguing articles and documents related to her mother’s life and art career.
Inge Hardison’s sculpture of Jesus
Inge Hardison’s photograph of musician T-Bone Walker
Inge Hardison’s photograph of Bricklayers (1940’s-60’s), from her ‘Construction Series’
There are various online sources available in which you can find out more about Inge Hardison (links are provided at the bottom of this page), but I’ll give a brief overview of her life, so that you can see what a privilege it was to view such an extensive collection of her work, and find out what she was like as a person. The information below is quoted directly from the article, Inge Hardison at 100, A Century of Expression in Life and Art, by Alice Bernstein (http://iraaa.museum.hamptonu.edu/page/Inge-Hardison-at-100).
‘Ruth Inge Hardison was born in Virginia in 1914. Soon after her birth, her parents fled Jim Crow racism and segregation, settling in Brooklyn. After graduating from high school, she landed the role of “Topsy,” the enslaved child in the 1936 Broadway production of “Sweet River,” George Abbott’s adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Her portrayal of the slave girl whose brutal treatment doesn’t kill her wit and kindness won her rave reviews. She also appeared in “The Country Wife” with Ruth Gordon, and in the 1946 production of “Anna Lucasta,” co-starring with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.
‘In the midst of all this, Inge Hardison discovered clay and was swept by the beauty and power of this material coming from the earth and, with it, her own ability and passion to express herself in this art form. She is best known for a series of bronze busts, begun in 1963, of African Americans who fought slavery and led the struggle for civil rights, and who at that time had not yet been acknowledged in the National Hall of Fame in Washington, DC: Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Dr. Martin Luther King.
‘One sees palpably in her work her great respect for those who helped change history, as in her series, “Ingenious Americans,” which includes Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) surveyor, clock-maker, mathematician; and Garrett Morgan (1877-1963), inventor of early traffic lights and gas masks. She also sculpted large public works: a life-size bronze, Mother and Child (her gift to Mt. Sinai Hospital in Manhattan after the birth of her daughter Yolande’.
Source: Inge Hardison at 100, A Century of Expression in Life and Art, by Alice Bernstein (http://iraaa.museum.hamptonu.edu/page/Inge-Hardison-at-100).
Yolande holding one of her mother’s sculptures
As well as being inspired by Inge Hardison’s work, one of the things I found most personally touching about my trip to the apartment was hearing her daughter Yolande’s stories about her. Yolande showed Brian and I a lovely video taken during Inge Hardison’s 100th birthday celebration, at which her mother was able to give an inspiring and motivational speech, in spite of her Alzheimer’s, which at that stage in her life was very advanced. Yolande also read us a short story that she wrote about her mother – describing a trip they took together to a local park, which captures beautifully a fleeting moment in time, giving insight into the nature of their relationship. After hearing this story, I’m very much looking forward to reading Yolande’s book about her mother when it’s released.
A bust of Yolande as a little girl, which her mother sculpted from life
I was also very interested to learn that Yolande got into life modelling after being sculpted by her mother when she was just a little girl (see above image).
Sculpture of Sojourner Truth
Just before Brian and I left Yolande’s apartment, she very kindly gifted me a brooch, whose design is based on her mother’s sculpture of the abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sojourner_Truth), along with a typed copy of her own short story. These are wonderful mementos of my time in New York, which I’ll treasure along with my memories of seeing Inge Hardison’s work and legacy.
Brooch of Sojourner Truth
To find out more about Inge Hardison, please follow the links below: