By Jodi Mailander Farrell
From the 1950s to the 1980s, a group of 26 black artists known as the “Florida Highwaymen” painted vivid landscapes of untouched Florida.
Swaying palm trees, magical sunsets, frothy oceans and glowing red Poinciana trees all came alive under their brushes. They traveled Florida’s highways, selling their works to hotels, offices and people for about $25 each. Today, those paintings are recognized as an important part of the state’s history. One can easily fetch $5,000 or more.
The Highwaymen were just the beginning. Today, the visual arts scene thrives in Florida, and many artists of color who work in a variety of styles and come from very different backgrounds call the state home. Here are five black painters who are redefining the arts in Florida.
RUBY C. WILLIAMS
Considered one of Florida's top folk artists, Williams has work hanging in collections from France to Argentina. Her great-great-grandmother, Mary Reddick, was one of 12 freed slaves who in 1965 founded the community of Bealsville, just south of Plant City. Williams began selling her bright folk art signs with the strawberries, black-eyed peas, watermelons and collard greens at her produce stand along State Road 60 in the 1990s. Her paintings depict icons from her life: bold strawberries, cartoonish livestock and sometimes handwritten lines of her down-home wisdom, such as “It will get better” or “Hey, This is My Life.” A spiritual businesswoman and minister, she’s a self-taught artist who has been awarded the Florida Folk Life Award and the Award of Distinction from the Folk Art Society of America.
Exhibits: Williams’ work has appeared at the Polk Museum of Art in Lakeland, the Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, House of Blues restaurants and the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum and Center for African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
Where to see her work: Williams’ produce stand and walk-in gallery is on the south side of State Road 60 in Bealsville, just west of the Polk County line. The Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery, 211 E. 1st St., in Sanford near Orlando represents her and sells her paintings. Learn more about Williams on the University of Central Florida Folkvine Project’s website, http://folkvine.umbc.edu/ruby/home.html. Williams illustrated a children’s book called “I Am Ruby,” which is out of print, but can still be found online.
Duval-Carrié was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but was raised in several countries, including Puerto Rico and Canada. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola College in Montréal and lived in France for many years before moving to Miami. Duval-Carrié's art reflects the culture and history of Haiti, with references to the Haitian Vodou religion, fantastic myths, legends and heroes. His paintings and sculptures often comment on Haitian contemporary society, the weight of slavery and the effects of migration. Strong colors are a part of his signature, but, more recently, he has worked with black and silver glitter landscapes that reference 19th century paintings of the Caribbean and Florida.
Exhibits: Duval-Carrié’s works have been exhibited at the Davenport Museum of Art in Iowa, Perez Art Museum Miami, Musee des Art Africains et Oceaniens in Paris, Musee de Pantheon National Haitien in Haiti and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Monterrey in Mexico, among other museums.
Where to see his work: His studio is in the heart of Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, at 255 NE 59th St., next to the Little Haiti Cultural Complex. Duval-Carrié is the co-founder of The Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance, which exhibits bi-monthly at the complex. Keep up with him at duval-carrie.com.
The subjects of Dillard’s watercolor paintings vary from famous figures, such as Barack Obama and Thurgood Marshall, to everyday scenes like idyllic rural settings and children at play. His works have appeared in JET magazine. In 2016, Florida Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott selected over 20 of his paintings to be displayed in state buildings in Tallahassee. A founder of the Manatee County African American Festival of the Arts, he was commissioned by the National Council of Negro Women to paint a portrait of its founder, Mary McLeod Bethune, in 2001. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University.
Exhibits: Dillard’s paintings have been displayed at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts in Eatonville, Fla., the Heritage Art Festival in Atlanta, the International Art Festival in Houston and Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. In 2015, he was one of six Florida artists featured in the “Splash of Sarasota” exhibit at Gallerie 909 in Sarasota. In 2004, his work appeared at the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education in Washington, D.C.
Where to see his work: Dillard offers watercolor demonstrations and workshops at his studio, 318 Old Main St., Bradenton. Keep up with him at http://arthurdillardart.com
A professor of art at Florida State College in Jacksonville, Harewood paints contemporary, convex works influenced by island culture and Japan, where he has traveled with his wife. The Brooklyn-born artist grew up in Barbados and earned a bachelor’s degree from North Carolina Central University. He has a master of fine arts in painting and drawing from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
Exhibits: Over the past decade, Harewood has shown his paintings and drawings in Jacksonville at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, Jacksonville International Airport, Jane Gray Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as several galleries in Barbados and North Carolina. In 2013, he was among 20 artists featured at the “North of Modern” exhibit in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood during Art Basel Miami Beach.
Where to see his work: Bold Bean Jax Beach, 2400 3rd St. South, Jacksonville Beach. Keep up with him at www.dustinharewood.com.
PRINCESS SIMPSON RASHID
Tampa-based artist Princess Simpson Rashid studied printmaking and painting at Escuela de Artes Plastica (The School of Plastic Arts) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and also has a bachelor’s degree in physics from Georgia State University. She merges these two divergent interests in her abstract paintings and drawings, which feature planes of color and texture. She’s won art prizes from the Florida Watercolor Society, Tampa Regional Artists and Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture & the Arts. She’s been named The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville 32nd Annual Art Awards Cover Artist and a Beaches Fine Art Series Cover Artist.
Exhibits: Rashid has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions across the United States, including the Pacific Grove Art Center and Felix Kulpa Gallery, both in California; Tempus-Projects in Tampa, and the CoRK Art District in Jacksonville. The accounting firm of Leich & Teeling in Tampa commissioned her to create a 40-by-120-inch painting depicting the evolution of numbers.
Where to see her work: Simpson’s work is part of the collection at the Museum of Science and History, 1025 Museum Circle, Jacksonville. Keep up with her at http://princessrashid.com.
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