MARBL acquires papers of artist/writer Barbara Chase-Riboud

Published 10-02-2014

Photo credit: Ricardo de la Chiesa

Barbara Chase-Riboud

The papers of Barbara Chase-Riboud, a sculptor, printmaker, novelist and poet, have been acquired by the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) at Emory University. The collection, open to researchers, joins a growing archive at MARBL dedicated to art, art history and literature.

Chase-Riboud will be at Emory on Saturday, Oct. 18, as part of the 2014 Callaloo conference hosted by the Emory University Creative Writing Program. Her presentation, “The Making of Art,” takes place at 2 p.m. in room E208 in the university’s Math and Science Center. All conference sessions are free and open to the public.

She has authored a newly-published poetry collection, “Everytime a Knot is Undone, a God is Released” (Seven Stories Press), which will be for sale following the event.

“The multidimensional elements of her art – from sculpture to poetry to fiction – connect beautifully across the rich array of our collections,” says Rosemary Magee, director of MARBL. “Ms. Chase-Riboud’s papers strengthen our expanding research and instructional materials in literature and art history.”

Born in Philadelphia in 1939, Barbara Chase began her formal training in art when she was 7 years old; by age 15, one of her pieces had been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City. She holds fine arts degrees from Temple University, where she studied at the Tyler School of Art, and Yale University, and she studied at the American Academy in Rome on a John Hay Whitney Fellowship. During her time abroad, she also visited Egypt and discovered non-Western art.

Since 1961, she has made her home outside the United States, although she returns frequently to conduct research and exhibit her work. In 1961, she moved to Paris and married French photographer Marc Riboud. Her work, which has been exhibited extensively in the U.S., France, and elsewhere internationally, is perhaps best known for its combination of contradictory materials and elements – bronze and silk, lightness and weight, organic and man-made.

In 1979, Chase-Riboud published her first novel, Sally Hemings, a work of historical fiction based on the complex relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Hemings, his slave, with whom he had several children. Her novels have received various awards, including the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and have been listed on bestseller lists throughout the world. She has also published several volumes of poetry, including Portrait of a Nude Woman as Cleopatra, which won the Carl Sandburg Award for Poetry in 1988.

A longtime resident of France, Chase-Riboud has published in both English and French, and she has exhibited her sculptural work in some of Paris’ most prestigious museums and galleries. In 1996, Chase-Riboud was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, one of the highest cultural awards granted by the French government. She currently divides her time between Paris, where she resides with her second husband, Sergio Tosi, and Rome, where she maintains a sculpture studio.

Chase-Riboud’s papers, ranging from manuscripts and audiovisual material to photographs and letters, cover the span of her life, from 1939 to today. The majority of the collection is research for and drafts of her novels and poetry volumes, as well as drafts of several unpublished works. Drawings and preparatory material for her sculptures are also included.

The Chase-Riboud collection joins MARBL’s continually growing and globally-oriented archive of material relating to visual and literary culture. Randall K. Burkett, MARBL curator of African American Collections, noted that Chase-Riboud was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres on the same day the honor was bestowed on Seamus Heaney, whose collection is also represented in MARBL.

“It is a privilege,” Burkett says, “to have Chase-Riboud’s papers join those of Heaney, of Salman Rushdie, Alice Walker, and other figures of international accomplishment and acclaim.”

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