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Phoebe Beasley

Collage artist Phoebe Beasley was born on June 3, 1943 in Cleveland, Ohio to Annette Davis Beasley and George Author Beasley, Jr. Beasley has two other siblings; she has one brother, George Author Beasley III and one sister, Annette Joyce Beasley Coleman. When Beasley was seven years old, her mother who was seven months pregnant died of a heart attack at twenty-nine years of age; her father, later remarried. During her early years, Beasley developed an interest in being an artist. During high school, Beasley received extensive artistic training. In 1961, she entered Ohio University, where she completed her B.F.A. degree in painting, with a minor in education, graduating in June of 1965. She later earned her M.A. degree from Kent State University.

In 1968, Beasley married Louie Gene Evans Jr; the union ended in divorce in 1969. It was during those years that Beasley's artistic efforts increased, culminating in the opening of a store front studio. She specialized in oils-on-canvas, as well as prints and collages. Her reputation as an artist grew, and she began meeting celebrities, including the legendary NBA player Bill Russell. It was through that relationship that she was introduced to Dr. Maya Angelou, who later became her mentor. Beasley simultaneously began a second career in radio marketing. She eventually worked more than twenty-five years in the radio industry.

Throughout the years, Beasley has become a world-renowned artist whose works are featured in the homes of Oprah Winfrey, Anita Baker, Dr. William Burke and Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, Tavis Smiley, Byron Allen, Grant Hill, Marla Gibbs, Roger Penske, Tyler Perry and Bill Cosby. Beasley’s commissions include being the official artist of the 1987 and 2000 Los Angeles Marathons, the 100 Black Men National Convention and the 2000 National Democratic Convention. Beasley became the first African American female president of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. Beasley’s work honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution.

Phoebe Beasley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 18, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.148

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/18/2007

Last Name

Beasley

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Ohio University

John Adams High School

Charles W Eliot School

Moses Cleaveland Elementary School

Robert Fulton Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Phoebe

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

BEA07

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $1,000 - $5,000

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

The Future Is Not Some Place We Are Going To. It's Not A Destination. It's Some Place That We're Dreaming And That We're Making And That Activity Changes Both The Maker And The Destination.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

6/3/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Polish Sausage

Short Description

Collage artist Phoebe Beasley (1943 - ) was a world renowned artist whose pieces were commissioned by President Bill Clinton and President George Bush.

Employment

Beasley Art Studio

KFI Los Angeles

Sage Publications, inc.

Cleveland Public Schools

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Phoebe Beasley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Phoebe Beasley lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Phoebe Beasley describes her parents' birthdates and birthplaces

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Phoebe Beasley describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Phoebe Beasley lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Phoebe Beasley remembers her mother and father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Phoebe Beasley describes her the role of religion in her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Phoebe Beasley describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Phoebe Beasley recalls her early family life

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Phoebe Beasley describes her parents' roles at Manakiki Golf and Country Club in Willoughby, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Phoebe Beasley remembers segregation in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Phoebe Beasley remembers her paternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Phoebe Beasley describes her maternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Phoebe Beasley describes her childhood chores

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Phoebe Beasley remembers Sundays with her paternal grandparents, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Phoebe Beasley remembers Sundays with her paternal grandparents, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Phoebe Beasley describes her early personality

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Phoebe Beasley describes her relationship with her sister

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Phoebe Beasley describes her relationship with her brother

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Phoebe Beasley talks about her tall stature

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Phoebe Beasley remembers the day her mother died

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Phoebe Beasley remembers the impact of her mother's death

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Phoebe Beasley describes her experiences following her mother's death

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Phoebe Beasley describes her father's second marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Phoebe Beasley describes her sister's lawsuit against their father

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Phoebe Beasley describes her relationship with her stepmother

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Phoebe Beasley describes her decision to study art at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Phoebe Beasley describes her experiences at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Phoebe Beasley recalls the riot at Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Phoebe Beasley reflects upon the impact of racial discrimination on children

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Phoebe Beasley talks about her first marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Phoebe Beasley remembers her art career in Cleveland, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Phoebe Beasley describes her relationship with Maya Angelou, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Phoebe Beasley describes her relationship with Maya Angelou, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Phoebe Beasley describes her position at KFI Radio in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Phoebe Beasley talks about the supporters of her early art career

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Phoebe Beasley remembers Maya Angelou's promotion of her artwork

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Phoebe Beasley describes her work with Oprah Winfrey, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Phoebe Beasley describes her work with Oprah Winfrey, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Phoebe Beasley describes her work with Oprah Winfrey, pt. 3

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Phoebe Beasley talks about her painting, 'Executive Order 9981,' pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Phoebe Beasley talks about her painting, 'Executive Order 9981,' pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Phoebe Beasley reflects upon her body of artwork

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Phoebe Beasley recalls being commissioned by Tyler Perry, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Phoebe Beasley recalls being commissioned by Tyler Perry, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Phoebe Beasley describes her relationship with Earl G. Graves, Sr.

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Phoebe Beasley describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Phoebe Beasley describes the book 'Sunrise Is Coming After While'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Phoebe Beasley talks about her artwork commissions from presidents

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Phoebe Beasley reflects upon her life

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Phoebe Beasley describes her decision to study art at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio
Phoebe Beasley recalls the riot at Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio
Transcript
We'll forward a little because you went through Univ- you went to Ohio University [Athens, Ohio]--$$Yes.$$Graduated in June of 1965--$$Yes.$$--with a degree in painting--$$Yes.$$--major?$$Yeah.$$And a bach- and a minor in education?$$Yeah, that's absolutely, yes.$$Okay, okay.$$And--$$What was college like for you?$$College--well, first of all, let me, let me go back a few months before I went to college. And I had a counselor. Even though I was good in art, did very well in art, I wanted to major in it. The senior counselor, you know, when you to get be a senior, you get a different counselor. And I remember a counselor telling me that--I said, "Oh, I'm planning to major in art." And she kind of looked at me. It was kind of between a smirk and a laugh, and it was kind of like a slaugh [ph.], and it was like--I thought, no, that's not for me. And it was, "There is no such thing as an African American artist. You have to be serious about your career, and at some point, understand what your limitations are." And I was hearing her, but there was something wrong with what was coming out of her mouth. And she said, "Now, come see me tomorrow, let me know, I'll give you a day to decide what you're going to major in because I need to send this transcript in, and come back, and see me tomorrow." And I went home. And the good thing is I didn't hit her, I didn't react, I didn't (laughter), you know, all of that. What would my grandmother think (laughter) comes back to you. Oh, and since there was really nobody to talk to about, you know, there's not a mother and father there to say--and so, you think, well, now wait a minute, I thought I was good in art and, and to her, to her credit, I couldn't think of an African American artist either. I couldn't think--I could think of African American thespians. I could think of [HistoryMaker] Ruby Dee, [HistoryMaker] Ossie Davis. I could think of, of musicians--Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Little Richard. But I could not think, and I'd never, I'd never read about an African American artist when I was in high school [John Adams Senior High School; John Adams High School, Cleveland, Ohio], never saw a book on one. But I don't know--blood, guts, youth, nuttiness, and just pissantiness [ph.], I was determined to put down, I'm going to major in art. Went back the next day and said, "Look, put artist. I'm, I'm going put, art major--that's my major." And she looked at me, and, and realized that I was not to be trifled with at that point, you know. You almost had the, (speaking Arabic) "As-Salaam-Alaikum [Peace be unto you]," (laughter). Don't say another word to me (laughter). There is an attitude where you get particularly, when all of a sudden, we look much taller than we are (laughter).$But I taught for four years, and it was probably the most rewarding thing I'll ever do, teaching high school, because these students were about my age. You know, I was barely out of my, you know, into my twenties. And they were, some of them almost into their twenties, (laughter), so, so that age difference, you know, and it's just, and it was during black power and H. Rap Brown [Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin]; and Ron Karenga [HistoryMaker Maulana Karenga] and, you know, keeping the lid on Cleveland [Ohio]. And '65 [1965] to '69 [1969] is when I taught. And I remembered when I--we had actually a riot at the school [Glenville High School, Cleveland, Ohio]. And some of the students had beaten up teachers. They had taken over this, the cafeteria. They had masks over their faces or material, and the police were outside. All the teachers and, and students were, about three thousand students in the school, we were all down on the ground in the parking lot. And you had about forty students in the school. And on the bullhorn they said, "Send in Mrs. Evans [HistoryMaker Phoebe Beasley] and Mr. Dahdale." Well, I didn't mention that I'd gotten married [to Louie Evans, Jr. (ph.)] in that period (laughter), but I was Mrs. Evans, and I heard my name. And Dennis Dahdale [ph.], who is still my attorney today (laughter), said, "Pheeb, you'll have to go in. We have to go, and then save our kids." I thought, wait a minute, I've already given my notice two weeks ago. I'm leaving and going to Hollywood [Los Angeles, California]. I'm going to California (unclear). And the police were saying, "No, we can cover you." "Cover me? You're about as far as the Pacific Ocean is from this, this gallery [M. Hanks Gallery, Santa Monica, California] here (laughter). You're going to cover me (laughter)? Them's my kids in there (laughter)." Oh, but Dennis convinced me that the thing to do would be to go in this cafeteria, and to help them with their demands, to negotiate the demands. And we went in. They had this long table and sat us in the middle of the table. And I just wanted to, you know, I'd hear the voices, and I would want to smack the student, and rip off this, this, this cloth and say, "Stop it, just stop it right now." But these students were very serious. I mean, they had beaten up, put a couple of the teachers in the hospital--not that some of these teachers didn't deserve what they were getting, retribution, but it was still wrong on their part. Well, they had demands like, "We want to be able to wear afros as large as we want." Well, my way of negotiating was, "Whatever y'all want (laughter)." Dennis, on the other hand, was kicking me under the table saying--"And we want to be able to wear dashi- [dashiki]--." They had the long, they had long dresses, African garb, and now they had to put a limit on how long the train could be. And some of the students were objecting to the length of the train that could be on the garb. And I thought it ought to be as long as a wedding train out the front door and all the way, you make, making turns. But Dennis had said, "You know, we need to talk about the students. We have a safety issue." So, he was studying for the bar. I was studying to get the heck out of there until we leave for Los Angeles [California], but we did negotiate the demands. And they returned the school to the property of the (laughter) Cleveland public schools.

Howardena Pindell

World renowned abstract artist Howardena Pindell was born on April 14, 1943, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Pindell became interested in art at an early age when she began taking art classes on Saturdays; she started out as a figurative painter. Pindell received her B.F.A. degree in painting from Boston University's School of Fine and Applied Arts in 1965, and her M.F.A. degree from Yale University's School of Art and Architecture in 1967. Pindell was also awarded two honorary doctorates: one from the Massachusetts College of Art, and one from Parson School of Design in New York.

Pindell began her career in the art world as the first African American Associate Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books at the New York Museum of Modern Art, a position she held for twelve years. Pindell rose from Curatorial Assistant to Associate Curator during her time at the New York Museum of Modern Art.. In 1979, Pindell began a new career as Associate Professor of Students at State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Pindell’s earliest drawings, composed of a patterned sequence of words and numbers on graph paper, suggest post minimalism as a major ingredient in her abstractions. In the 1970s, Pindell developed a collage technique using small circles hand punched from sheets of blank or printed paper. After numbering each one individually, she pasted them on sheets of punched and un-punched paper so that they floated on surfaces at once porous and solid. In the 1980s, she moved to photo-based collage, video, and relief paintings with intensely political subject matter. Pindell traveled extensively to Africa, Asia, Europe, Russia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, lived in Japan for seven months, and in India for four months. Pindell used these journeys and experiences as inspiration to integrate her own history as content for the autobiographies of her life. Between 1995 and 1999, Pindell taught at Yale University as a visiting professor; from 2003 to 2006, she served as Director of the MFA Program at Stony Brook University. Pindell also served as a full Professor of Art at Stony Brook University.

Pindell’s belief that the arts community should become more inclusive of women and minorities sparked a revolution in her work; she published groundbreaking studies that documented the lack of representation of artists of color through racism, censorship and violence.

Pindell works are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Yale Art Museum, New Haven, the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, and the Rhode Island School of Art Museum. Pindell also became an accomplished writer; a book of her writings, The Heart of the Question, was published in 1997. In 2000 Pindell received the IAM Pioneer award.

Accession Number

A2007.002

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/5/2007

Last Name

Pindell

Maker Category
Schools

Yale University

Boston University

Philadelphia High School for Girls

Jay Cook Junior High School

Pastorius Francis P Sch

The New School for Social Research

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Howardena

Birth City, State, Country

Philadelphia

HM ID

PIN04

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Egypt

Favorite Quote

Are You Kidding? Oh, God.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

4/14/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Southern Food

Short Description

Collage artist, art professor, and curator Howardena Pindell (1943 - ) began her career as the first African American Associate Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books at the New York Museum of Modern Art, and became a renowned abstract artist. Pindell also published groundbreaking studies that document the lack of representation of artists of color through racism, censorship, and violence.

Employment

New York Museum of Modern Art

Stony Brook University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Howardena Pindell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Howardena Pindell lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Howardena Pindell describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Howardena Pindell describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Howardena Pindell describes her father's childhood and personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Howardena Pindell talks about her father's activism

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Howardena Pindell describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Howardena Pindell describes her parent's personalities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Howardena Pindell describes her paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Howardena Pindell describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Howardena Pindell talks about her mother's family members who passed as white

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Howardena Pindell describes her mother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Howardena Pindell describes her parent's marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Howardena Pindell describes her mother's education and temperament

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Howardena Pindell talks about her mother's childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Howardena Pindell talks about being an only child

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Howardena Pindell describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Howardena Pindell describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Howardena Pindell recalls her neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Howardena Pindell recalls her experiences of racial discrimination in Philadelphia

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Howardena Pindell recalls her experiences of racial discrimination while travelling

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Howardena Pindell describes her early education in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Howardena Pindell describes her early talent for art

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Howardena Pindell describes her experiences in grade school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Howardena Pindell remembers her high school education in Philadelphia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Howardena Pindell describes her social life and pastimes as a teenager

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Howardena Pindell recalls her difficulties at school in Philadelphia

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Howardena Pindell recalls her art teachers at Philadelphia High School for Girls

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Howardena Pindell remembers her early interest in reading

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Howardena Pindell remembers her high school prom

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Howardena Pindell describes her lack of interest in sports as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Howardena Pindell recalls her parent's political involvement

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Howardena Pindell recalls her decision to attend Boston University

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Howardena Pindell describes her experience of racial discrimination at Boston University

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Howardena Pindell describes her early artwork

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Howardena Pindell recalls being hired by New York City's Museum of Modern Art

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Howardena Pindell recalls how the Vietnam War influenced her artwork

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Howardena Pindell remembers the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Howardena Pindell recalls President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Howardena Pindell recalls protests against New York City's museums

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Howardena Pindell remembers being a black, female curator in late 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Howardena Pindell recalls the founding of Artists in Residence Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Howardena Pindell talks about discrimination in commercial art galleries

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Howardena Pindell talks about black artists' exclusion from galleries

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Howardena Pindell remembers her artistic breakthrough in the early 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Howardena Pindell explains the use of number in her art

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Howardena Pindell recalls her car accident

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Howardena Pindell remembers teaching at Stony Brook University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Howardena Pindell talks about making her artwork accessible to the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Howardena Pindell describes the subjects of her artwork, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Howardena Pindell describes the subjects of her artwork, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Howardena Pindell describes her 'Autobiography' painting series

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Howardena Pindell describes the influence of astronomy upon her work

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Howardena Pindell recalls publishing a study of discrimination in the art world

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Howardena Pindell talks about artist Kara Walker

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Howardena Pindell talks about other artists she admires

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Howardena Pindell talks about her travels

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Howardena Pindell describes her experiences in Japan

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Howardena Pindell talks about her travels in India and Africa

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Howardena Pindell talks about the spiritual component of African American art

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Howardena Pindell talks about the representation of African Americans in art

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Howardena Pindell describes her plans for future artwork

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Howardena Pindell shares advice for aspiring artists

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Howardena Pindell reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Howardena Pindell reflects upon the importance of history

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Howardena Pindell describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Howardena Pindell shares a message for future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Howardena Pindell describes her legacy and how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Howardena Pindell narrates her photographs

DASession

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DAStory

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DATitle
Howardena Pindell recalls her experiences of racial discrimination while travelling
Howardena Pindell describes the subjects of her artwork, pt. 1
Transcript
Now, was there a time when you were traveling with your family, something about root beer mugs?$$Oh, gosh, oh yeah. It was the reason why I use circles. Yes, my father [Howard Pindell] and mother [Mildred Lewis Pindell] and I would periodically drive to Ohio, and in fact, that was always difficult because the, the motels would not allow black people to stay there so we had to like really drive fast (laughter), or drive you know like all night. In fact at one point they took a cook stove and we would cook out in the woods 'cause you couldn't, so in segregation you couldn't even get food. My father and I, my mother was busy with her mother [Loula Lewis] and her sisters, I think maybe Entellena [Entellena Lewis] was there, her youngest sister, and my father and I drove into Kentucky and my father loved root beer so we stopped at a root beer stand, I mean my father was someone say if it says, "You can't go there," you'd go there anyway, and they served us root beer you know in chilled mugs, but at the bottom of the mug was a big red circle, and apparently in the South what they would do if they were willing to serve people of color, they would mark the silverware and the glassware, so what they had I mean, if you, it was a circle about the size of the base of this glass you know on a root beer mug. And I asked my father, you know, "What is that?" And he explained that if you're colored, you're African American, then they will mark your silverware, your glassware, dishware with a red circle. So I always tell people you know I was scared by a red circle, by a circle, and so I was obsessing about circles ever since, but I remember being just genuinely shocked, you know, that we would, you know, that anyone would get you know silverware. I can remember when we had driven south, I think we were going to visit some of my parents' friends in the Carolinas in Durham [North Carolina], going to a filling station and the rudeness of these sort of redneck guys that ran the station, the way they talked to my father calling him Howard, and you know because I had the credit card, and then you were like terrorized, you know you didn't want to go to the bathroom anywhere, because if--you know you either run into that kind of you know hillbilly kind of offensive behavior or it could be dangerous. So I can remember traveling with them and my father wearily going into a motel and being told it's no vacancy and then when you leave it says vacancy sign is on that they don't want anyone black. I would say, yeah those are my memories from the '40s [1940s] maybe early '50s [1950s].$$How did those, well how did it make you feel though as a child?$$Upset, insecure, angry, but I think that the thing that really brought it home was the white teacher, inappropriately being furious at a student who followed her directions (laughter) you know like what is this? So ever since then I just--it's also I think given me a kind of uncomfortable feeling about white women, that I've always found when I've dealt with, like in current times that are not as segregated or not, it's more subtle that I find there's always this and I even get the phrase from an Asian friend, she said when you're around white women, the white women act like, I'm white and I'm in charge here. This particular individual was an Asian woman artist who was talking about the women's movement and how if you get involved in a women's group, the white women always assume that they're the authority, they're in charge. So, I've run into that umpteen times.$Tell me about some of the pieces that you have done that--?$$Oh, the big ones?$$Yeah, the ones that you have to do the research for that you enjoy doing now?$$Well, I did a piece that was in my last show, it was called 'In My Lifetime' and what I have is like a strip of I think red at the bottom representing blood in terms of slavery and wars and stuff and then I have a section of water which somehow the Middle Passage comes back into my work, a lot I want to keep referring to that. Then above that is another strip of, of water but it's all done in camouflage patterns you would have on a military uniform and then on this field you have two screaming heads, my head at maybe '40s [1940s] and the other maybe in the '50s [1950s], so it's like it represents a passage of time and the top there is a strip of images from bomb tests in the Pacific [Pacific Ocean] as well as Nagasaki [Japan], I don't remember if I included Hiroshima [Japan], but I wanted to refer to in my lifetime these wars have happened, these holocausts have happened. And then I use a photo transfer process to show various atrocities. I had to do the research to even find the images. I mean some I got through the library which were the bombs, bomb images and then, and then I just used the photo realistic process to translate, then the image is like I have an Angolan child with no limbs, with no legs from when we were the ones that sponsored the, putting landmines in Angola, we have to have the largest amputation rate in the world. Then there are images from Iraq because I was really against the Iraq War from the beginning and then the embargo which starved, you know millions to death. I mean we're doing we're killing, you know it's all killing, so I look at image, well I found images of children in bomb shelters where we in Iraq, we had bombed and killed women and children, so I have images. It's a hard thing to look at, and then at the bottom of the painting, the painting is about the size of that wall, maybe twelve feet by about I think this one is about eight feet high, or seven feet, and then at the front of the painting I have like a tree stump, like you know like a tree surgeon would have given me. It's literally the from here to here and maybe about that big and round, and on it is a Bible, a large print Bible. At the top of the various pages are stamped with rubber stamps, different holocausts, including not only the Holocaust that the Jews went through, although I find so often the Jewish people see it as the, the only holocaust, but Rwanda and Angola, you know just so when you flip the Bible you have these different holocausts; mainly to express in, well there are two things: one is my usual struggle about God whether he exists or not, and culpability or responsibility (laughter). Okay, one thing is the Bible says throughout it that God will protect you, the meek will inherit the earth, and I'm saying like, "So where, where, when does this start?" You know, it hasn't happened and there's been all these wars and the other that there are various religions that say you know, you know, they claim to be good and yet they will foment wars, like what's happening with the Evangelical Christians seeing that pushing war, pushes what they feel is like the end times; you know it's terrifying that Bush [President George Walker Bush] would start a war in order to fulfill prophecy, or fulfill his friend's prophecy and also line his friends' pockets with you know, a lot of money--so you know just war profiteering. So it was all that sort of in one piece.

Allen Stringfellow

Allen Stringfellow was born on July 9, 1923. He was raised by his deeply religious great-grandmother, who would take Allen to open-air baptisms performed by their church in Champaign, Illinois. Although he did not live with his parents, who resided in Chicago, Stringfellow would often visit his mother and father, a jazz musician and nightclub manager.

Allen showed promise in his artistic abilities at a very young age. He enrolled in art classes at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and finished his training at the Art Institute in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After graduating, Stringfellow moved to Chicago where he taught print techniques at the South Side Community Arts Center as part of the National Youth Administration program. Later, as general manager of Armand Lee's well-known framing company, he worked with the most prestigious designers in the country. His influence in the art community steadily increased and, by 1960, Stringfellow owned an original art gallery in Chicago's Old Town community.

As with many artists, Stringfellow examines themes which have been important in shaping his life. His artwork often includes religious and jazz imagery. Many of his most famous pieces are inspired by baptismal scenes from his youth, including "Red Umbrella Down by the Riverside" and "Going to Lay Down My Sword and Shield." Although he has explored many artistic traditions, Stringfellow is currently working with collage and watercolor, examining the depth and movement that can be achieved through these mediums. Inspired by the late William S. Carter, Stringfellow refers to him as his best friend and motivator.

Stringfellow has been the recipient of numerous awards. His signature works include "Ladies Day", "The Gallery" and "All That Jazz". His works have been shown in many galleries, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Historical Society and DuSable Museum of African American History.

Accession Number

A2001.071

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

1/8/2001

Last Name

Stringfellow

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Marquette School

Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design

University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Allen

Birth City, State, Country

Champaign

HM ID

STR01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Florida

Favorite Quote

God is good.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/9/1923

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

6/22/2004

Short Description

Collage artist and watercolor artist Allen Stringfellow (1923 - 2004 ) created artwork that often includes religious and jazz imagery, as well as baptismal scenes from his youth. His signature works include, "Ladies Day", "The Gallery," and, "All That Jazz." His works have been shown in many galleries, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Historical Society and DuSable Museum of African American History.

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Allen Stringfellow interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Allen Stringfellow's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Allen Stringfellow remembers his father

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Allen Stringfellow remembers his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Allen Stringfellow shares some anecdotes about his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Allen Stringfellow recalls his childhood in Champaign, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Allen Stringfellow discusses his early interest in art

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Allen Stringfellow recalls his childhood religious involvment

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Allen Stringfellow describes his childhood home, Champaign, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Allen Stringfellow discusses skin color in his family

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Allen Stringfellow describes his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Allen Stringfellow remembers his adolescent years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Allen Stringfellow discusses the Works Progress Administration and the National Youth Administration

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Allen Stringfellow describes living in a 'kichenette'

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Allen Stringfellow recalls his first encounter with the South Side Community Art Center, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Allen Stringfellow remembers influential figures at the South Side Community Art Center

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Allen Stringfellow discusses his early watercolor paintings

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Allen Stringfellow discusses his parents' social status

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Allen Stringfellow recalls the art fairs of his early career: Part I

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Allen Stringfellow describes creative jobs he held in the 1940s and 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Allen Stringfellow recalls the art fairs of his early career: Part II

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Allen Stringfellow discusses his contemporaries' artistic approaches

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Allen Stringfellow remembers William Carter and other artistic role models

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Allen Stringfellow describes working with Armand Lee and creating the Wells Street Art Fair

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Allen Stringfellow describes his experiences working under Armand Lee's tutelage, part 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Allen Stringfellow discusses his experiences under framer Armand Lee's tutelage, part 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Allen Stringfellow details the evolution of his art

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Allen Stringfellow describes his typical buyers

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Allen Stringfellow explains the influence of music and religion on his works

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Allen Stringfellow describes his encounter with an influential New York art figure

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Allen Stringfellow considers other artists' influence on his work

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Allen Stringfellow details the emergence of black collectors of his works

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Allen Stringfellow discusses his piece 'Red Umbrella Down by the Riverside'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Allen Stringfellow recalls hat-making, the inspiration for his piece 'Ladies Day'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Allen Stringfellow discusses the inspiration for his piece, 'The Gallery'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Allen Stringfellow shares anecdotes on the inspiration for his piece, 'All that Jazz'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Allen Stringfellow discusses the inspiration for his piece 'Gonna Lay Down my Sword and Shield'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Allen Stringfellow examines his mentor-mentee relationship with artist, William Carter

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Allen Stringfellow discusses his signature color, red

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Allen Stringfellow reflects on his career as a collage artsist

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Allen Stringfellow describes emotional resposes to his art

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Allen Stringfellow shares advice to aspiring artists

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Allen Stringfellow expresses the importance of art in black culture and history

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Allen Stringfellow considers his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Allen Stringfellow considers family members' responses to his art

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow in his dashiki period on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1950s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow in his signature red clothing on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow attempts papier mache figures in Florida

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow with an Italian friend in Florida, ca. late 1980s, early 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow at an outdoor cafe, Paris France, ca. 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow with co-workers, including Armand Lee, Chicago, Illinois, ca. early 1980s

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow presents his painting of a Sugar Hill, Brooklyn, New York, mansion

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow presents his painting 'Gonna Lay Down My Sword and Shield,' 1996

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow presents his painting of a Chicago, Illinois church

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow presents his collage, 'Ladies Day,' 1999

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Allen Stringfellow presents a painting of a dance troupe

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Allen Stringfellow discusses his representative, Nicole

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Allen Stringfellow shares his thoughts on spirituality and art

DASession

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DAStory

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DATitle
Allen Stringfellow remembers William Carter and other artistic role models
Allen Stringfellow discusses his piece 'Red Umbrella Down by the Riverside'
Transcript
Who were your inspirations. Was William Carter still in the picture?$$William Carter and [Romare] Bearden and he just died. Jacob Lawrence because I liked what they did and they were able to get good connection. Somebody truly interested in them way back then. The way I say way back, I guess it wasn't way back. And they were progressing better. William Carter was just a good artist. All of them were good artists.$$Now William Carter, you talked about how he encouraged you. Was that encouragement going on at this point in time?$$Yes.$$And what are some lessons you learned from him, you know, as an artist?$$To keep doing my art because I was more, not more interested, but I was interested in doing things for the money to come in too so that sort of puts a damper on your art. You know like they say a poor struggling artist. I didn't want to be a poor struggling artist. I wanted to do my art but I did other things. Like I told you I made ladies hats and then the printing and then I went from there into a picture frame business with one of the top picture framers back then in Chicago and I went into that to, what was it Armand Lee. Now at that time Armand Lee was a type of an artist, I guess you call it passing or whatever, and that's what made his business flourish because it was years and years before people recognized Armand, Mr. Lee as being a black person.$$So Armand Lee, so that was his name Armand Lee?$$Armand Lee.$$And he was a framer, okay, okay.$$With all the top white decorators and everything that's how he got famous.$$Let me go back to William Carter a little bit. What else do you remember him in terms of his art or what type of person and all. Any other anecdotes or stories you could tell us about him?$$Well, we was--the best way I can describe William Carter, he should have been born aristocrat. He like the opera. He liked the top music and he loved his art and he loved beautiful things. The painting at the Art Institute and opera and things like that. He always like that in his work.$$Anything else?$$He always would say when I would start letting the art go, especially when I was in the picture frame or something like tha,t because I was doing things--I was making a name in that for making money but he would always say, have you painted anything today? I can always remember Carter always saying did you paint anything today?$$Did you ever meet [Romare] Bearden?$$Bearden, oh yeah. A few years before he died I was, in fact that's how my New York connection came because I started--I met Essie Green and she was a Bearden promoter. She had been one to start from Bearden from the beginning. Because Bearden started in the WPA too but in New York. But he was much more adventurous than me in leaving the country. You had to leave the country and do things. I just wasn't adventurous but I loved Bearden's work. He was so encouraging. He taught me a lot of things that I use now about the right materials to use for a collage that last through the years.$It says here that your signature piece is the 'Red Umbrella Down by Riverside,' would you agree with that?$$Yes.$$And why would you?$$Because ever since I've done 'Red Umbrella Down By The River[side]', I guess that's the biggest piece of art that I've done. Not big in size as far as selling and going into collectors. Anyone that generally has collected my work, they want--and every show everybody wants that piece. In fact I could give a show on 'Red Umbrella Down By The Riverside' but none of them are alike.$$So what made you incorporate the red umbrella, was it just--?$$Well that's a childhood memory even from Champaign [Illinois]. That was a big affair in Champaign. Go to Crystal Lake for a big baptism and I was even a child when I was into that because after the baptism they had the big picnic. All churches went together, the union picnic they called it. So if you wanted to get baptized to go to the picnic you would get baptized (laughs). And I don't know, for some reason it was always a red umbrella that they held over the preacher--well, it didn't have to be--not for the rain they did it for the sun and I remember that very well. I ran into that same thing again in New Orleans [Louisiana], they did that same thing and I always like the flow of that painting and it was always--it's still a painting, any show that I have it's always a version of that painting.$$Do you remember what--you know, when you first did that piece and what sort of motivated you or what, you know, to do it? Was it just sort of an inspiration?$$An inspiration because I always--that's when I thought--most of the paintings I got my subject matter from was from things that were vivid, very meaningful to me and my growing up all the time and that was church--church and that was all connected with church.