Rare Works of Art Showcase African American Life on Maryland’s Eastern Shore at Mitchell Gallery

| December 27, 2016

The Mitchell Gallery at St. John’s College presents the upcoming exhibition “Ruth Starr Rose (1887-1965): Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World,” on view from January 11 to February 26, 2017. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

This first comprehensive exhibition of artist Ruth Starr Rose (1887-1965) offers a rare glimpse into African American life at the turn of the century on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Many of the subjects are descendants of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Ross Tubman. From the area’s most noted black sail maker, to professional female crab pickers, to heroic soldiers, the portraits speak of self-possessed people who were proud of their station in life. Rose’s subjects are portrayed with a dignity and compassion that is rarely seen during this period of art history.

Mitchell Gallery Art Educator Lucinda Edinberg will lead a tour of the exhibition followed by a hands-on workshop at the opening reception on January 15, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. For more information: www.sjc.edu/mitchellgallery

Rose’s illustrations of spirituals, some of which are on view in this exhibition, are said to be the most comprehensive visual interpretation of Negro spirituals to appear in the United States, according to Professor James A. Porter, the undisputed father of African American art history. Rose is also believed to be the first white artist to produce a work of art for a black church. 

Part of the exhibition is archival material highlighting Rose’s correspondence and association with other 20th century artists, writers, and luminaries such as Paul Robeson, Orson Welles, and Julia Mood Peterkin. 

While Rose exhibited during her lifetime at institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she remains in obscurity. This first comprehensive show brings unseen content to light, giving visitors a new chance to become acquainted with this courageous woman. The artist boldly disregarded norms for her gender and white upper class background to chronicle black life. Her work serves as a starting point for creative inquiry about art’s ability to connect individuals across the color lines.

The work of Barbara Paca, the guest exhibition curator, is enriched by her unique achievements in two different yet complementary worlds. As an art historian, her credentials are numerous, including a Ph.D. from Princeton University, a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Ireland, and a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. As a creative designer, Paca holds a five-year professional degree in landscape architecture and owns a flourishing private practice in Manhattan. Recognized for artistically merging the academic with the natural world, Paca’s designs can be found on some of the world’s most exquisite properties. It is in these environments that she has encountered the work and fascinating, unlikely stories of artists fueled by philosophies well ahead of their time.

EVENTS 

January 15 Opening Reception. Art Educator Lucinda Edinberg will lead a tour of the “Ruth Starr Rose” exhibition followed by a hands-on workshop from 3:30 to 5 p.m. 

February 1 Art Express Lunchtime Tour. Art Educator Lucinda Edinberg will give a gallery talk on the “Ruth Starr Rose” exhibition from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m.

February 2 Book Club. Join members of the Mitchell Gallery Book Club for a docent tour of the “Ruth Starr Rose” exhibition followed by a discussion of a related reading from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. St. John’s College tutor Tom May will lead the discussion. Registration is required. Call 410-626-2556.

February 8 Curator’s Lecture. Curator Barbara Paca will lecture on “Labor of Love: Ruth Starr Rose and the Miracle of her Shared Community” at 5:30 p.m. in the Conversation Room, across from the Gallery. Mitchell Gallery members are invited to a wine and cheese reception with the curator immediately following the lecture. 

February 19 Sunday Afternoon Lecture. Art Educator Lucinda Edinberg will lead a tour of the “Ruth Starr Rose” exhibition at 3 p.m. 

The Elizabeth Myers Mitchell Gallery is an extraordinary treasure in historic Annapolis, Maryland, located on the campus of St. John’s College. Nationally accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Mitchell Gallery draws more than 10,000 visitors each year to view its diverse, museum-quality exhibitions and participate in its numerous programs, including lively opening receptions, insightful lectures and discussions with curators and collectors, creative workshops, and much more. The Mitchell Gallery exhibitions—and most programs—are free and open to the public.

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