Wilmer Jennings was one of many African American artists who benefited from the printmaking programs
offered by the WPA between 1935 and 1943. Through WPA programs established in urban community arts
centers, black artists gained valuable technical and artistic experience as both teachers and students.
Although there were relatively few black printmakers during this period, the WPA program in particular
was responsible for bringing into the world of printmaking many more African Americans than had been
involved heretofore, many of whom went on to become the most important African American artists of the
Wilmer Jennings, who worked for the WPA in both Atlanta and Providence in the mid-1930s, was
most famous for his black-and-white wood engravings. Still Life uses the traditional format of
objects assembled on a table top as a vehicle for exploration of form and ideas.
The elongated, cylindrical forms of the urn, the African statue, and the plant contrast with
the square modularity of the tablecloth, book, and background motif. Jennings's incorporation of African
sculpture into a still life composition with non-African objects recalls the use of this device by Harlem
Renaissance artists who used African motifs to assert a sense of pride in an African heritage while
maintaining an identity as Americans.
A. L. C.