An exhibition, Ruth Starr Rose, Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World, featuring members of the African American founding families of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, will open on Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Easton, Maryland in the Waterfowl Building, 40 S. Harrison Street. The exhibition includes pieces on loan from private collections and scenes of Eastern Shore life and labor, visual depictions of Negro Spirituals, and images of military heroes. Accompanying the exhibition are video interviews of many of the descendants of the families featured in the exhibition.
Rose also traveled the world, documenting the daily life and religious festivals of Native Americans in New Mexico and Florida. Comfortable living among diverse people, she created similar works on the local populations of Mexico and Haiti.
The life of Ruth Starr Rose provides an interesting backstory to the exhibition. Rose, an upper class white woman, became an artist, studying at the New York Art Students League and returned to the Eastern Shore, recording African American life, especially religious life, through the first half of the 20th century. She is believed to be the first white artist to produce a work for a black church. Her work, the fresco, “And the Pharaoh’s Army Got Drowned” was painted in 1943 for the DeShields Methodist Church in Copperville. After the exhibition, it will be returned to the St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Longwoods.
Rose left an important legacy of handwritten notes, describing the people whom she portrayed along with a collection of studies, litho crayon sketches, color takes, and finished works to illustrate her creative process in lithography.
The artist participated in more than 100 juried national and international shows and received numerous awards. Her art is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, other museums, galleries, and private collections.
The exhibition was produced by the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture. It is enhanced by an illustrated catalogue about the portraits and their context, written by the exhibition’s curator, art historian Dr. Barbara Paca.
Dock Street Foundation is spearheading this effort. The Academy Art Museum, The Avalon Foundation, Frederick Douglass Honor Society, Talbot County Public Schools, Talbot Historical Society, Talbot Spy, and local and regional media are collaborating and supporting this exhibition, demonstrating their commitment to providing everyone in the community with an opportunity to participate in a broad spectrum of cultural offerings.
The show is free and open to the public daily, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., April 30 through June 19. Docent tours are available; call Joan Levy, Dock Street Foundation, 410-245-5195.