The Word - Media

Barbara Chase-Riboud

Barbara Chase-Riboud, an American artist and author, was born on June 26, 1939, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Charles and Vivian Chase. Chase-Riboud is best known for her controversial novel “Sally Hemings,” which explores the life of the enslaved woman who was also the mistress of Thomas Jefferson.

Chase-Riboud’s early life in Philadelphia greatly influenced her artistic and literary pursuits. She attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls, where she developed a passion for the arts. After high school, she went on to study at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, where she honed her skills as a sculptor and artist. She later continued her studies at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture, where she received her Master of Fine Arts degree.

As an artist, Chase-Riboud gained recognition for her powerful and evocative sculptures. Her work often explores themes of history, race, and identity, and she is known for her use of materials such as bronze, marble, and silk. Her sculptures have been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world, and she has received numerous awards and honors for her contributions to the art world.

In addition to her work as a visual artist, Chase-Riboud is also an accomplished author. Her novel “Sally Hemings” was published in 1979 and immediately sparked controversy and critical acclaim. The novel tells the story of Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman who had a complex and fraught relationship with Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States. Chase-Riboud’s novel delves into the complexities of power, race, and love, and it has been praised for its rich storytelling and deep exploration of historical themes.

Sally Hemings” brought Chase-Riboud both widespread attention and criticism. Some praised her for shedding light on a little-known aspect of American history and for giving a voice to a woman who had long been marginalized and silenced. Others criticized the novel for its portrayal of the relationship between Hemings and Jefferson, arguing that it romanticized and glossed over the power dynamics at play.

Despite the controversy surrounding “Sally Hemings,” the novel cemented Chase-Riboud’s reputation as a bold and fearless storyteller. She continued to write and publish novels, poetry, and essays that tackled difficult and important subjects. Her work often explores themes of race, gender, and power, and she is known for her unflinching commitment to telling stories that challenge conventional wisdom and provoke thought.

Throughout her career, Chase-Riboud has been a trailblazer in both the art world and the literary world. Her work has inspired countless artists and writers, and she has been a vocal advocate for greater representation of marginalized voices in both fields. She has also been an influential figure in discussions about race, history, and identity, using her platform to spark important conversations about the past and its impact on the present.

In recognition of her contributions to art and literature, Chase-Riboud has received numerous awards and honors. She has been the recipient of prestigious fellowships and grants, and her work has been celebrated in retrospectives and exhibitions at major institutions. She continues to create and inspire with her art and writing, leaving an indelible mark on both the artistic and literary landscapes.

Barbara Chase-Riboud’s life and work serve as a testament to the power of art and literature to challenge, provoke, and inspire. Her fearless exploration of difficult subjects has opened doors for future generations of artists and writers, and her legacy continues to shape conversations about history, race, and identity. As she continues to create and innovate, Barbara Chase-Riboud remains a vital force in the worlds of art and literature.

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