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Artists Born This Month: Benny Andrews


Benny Andrews was a painter, collage artist, illustrator, printmaker and professor. Benny was born on November 13, 1930 and was of mixed racial ancestry. He grew up on a farm in rural Georgia with nine brothers and sisters. His parents were sharecroppers. Although raised in poverty and racial segregation, Benny and his siblings grew up with their creative energies supported by his parents.

After serving in the Air Force in the Korean War, he attended the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving a B.F.A. in 1958. Benny then moved to New York, where he became a nationally recognized artist. Although the prevailing style in the art world at the time was Abstract Expressionism, Benny’s work struck a chord. Using collage of fabrics and found objects, oils, and line, depicting simple, everyday people, Benny’s work harkened back to his roots growing up in Georgia. He worked in series, unifying each work by theme, some of which include his Revival series, Women I’ve Known and Bicentennial series.

Benny Andrews became an accomplished illustrator for books. He was a writer and critic and he taught drawing and painting at Queens College of New York. He also served as Director of Visual Arts for the National Endowment for the Arts from 1982 – 1984. He was a curator and lecturer. He was elected into the National Academy of Design, and as an art-activist he fought for the inclusion of African-Americans and women in museums and galleries. He also started an art program in New York which became a model to be used in prisons across the US. Benny’s work is included in many major museums across the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Smithsonian Institution.

Benny Andrews died of cancer on November 10, 2006.

The Oath, Benny Andrews, Mixed media. Photo courtesy of ColumbusMuseum.com

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Copyright 2016 Thom Reaves

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