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Fri, 01.26.1934

Leo Twiggs, Artist, and Educator born

Leo Twiggs

*The birth of Leo Twiggs is celebrated on this date in 1934.  He is a Black artist and educator.

Leo F. Twiggs was born in St. Stephens, South Carolina; as a child, he wanted to get a job where he could wear a collar and tie.  This was a modest goal and an extremely unlikely one for a poor, sickly 14-year-old boy who attended a badly equipped segregated school.   Twiggs had to look after his sister and five younger brothers after the death of his father.  With hard work and persistence, Twiggs handled every obstacle to attaining his goal. 

Once he graduated from high school, a local pastor introduced him to the president of Claflin College, who helped arrange for Twiggs to afford college. Twiggs graduated summa cum laude from Claflin College and furthered his education at the Art Institute of Chicago and New York University. In 1970, Twiggs became the first Black student to receive a Doctor of Arts from the University of Georgia. Today, he is acknowledged as one of South Carolina's foremost artists.

He is chairperson of the Department of Art at South Carolina State University and executive director of the Stanback Museum and Planetarium. And, every day, he wears a collar and ties to work. "My mother and grandmother always wanted me to get an education and to them, wearing a tie signified success," Twigg said, "They always believed that I could do it."  Twiggs is nationally known for his batik work. Batik is an ancient wax resists and dye process, which can be traced back to fifth and sixth century Egypt. Several of Twigg's batiks are displayed throughout the world. He has received numerous awards and recognition, but the highlight of his career was receiving the Elizabeth O'Neil Verner Individual Award. "The Elizabeth O'Neil Verner Award is given by the South Carolina governor to recognize the highest contribution to the arts in South Carolina," Twiggs said, "It was such an honor to be recognized in my home state."

Many of the images in his batiks focus on mother images, bird images, and children, "I suppose that living in the low country with my grandmother, mother, sister, brother, uncles, and aunts have acted to shape what I explore in my work," Twiggs said. "The people I Knew were folks who lived, loved and died in their meager environment. However, there was a dignity about that existence, an existence not unlike that of many other people in the world." "East Wind Suite" was a series Twiggs produced after Hurricane Hugo hit the coast of South Carolina. His mother and family lived through the storm, and Twiggs was overwhelmed by the destruction the hurricane inflicted. "To me, the hurricane series is a coming together of all the images I had produced over the years--mother, family, and people I know," Twiggs said. "The hurricane series shows people in a dire situation. They are in the wind, unyielding, just like the people I know."

Twiggs tells students, "I believe in the importance of the arts. I believe that they are repositories for the hopes and aspirations of a people, of a culture, and that they can combat discrimination and bring us closer together as human beings. To come to love, appreciate and respect the arts of a people is to come to love, appreciate and respect the people themselves. You must give love and respect to get love and respect." 

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