Benny Andrews (American, 1930–2006)
oil with fabric collage on canvas
60 1/8 x 48 1/8 x 1 1/2 in. (152.72 x 122.24 x 3.81 cm)
Gift of halley k harrisburg ’90 and Michael Rosenfeld, 2018.39. © 2021 Estate of Benny Andrews / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY, Courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY
Standing stoically with a staff in hand, this portrait depicts Viola Andrews, the mother of artist Benny Andrews. This collage features material elements: light-colored fabric for the hat, red corduroy fabric used for her shirt, and a stained towel directly underneath. The staff in her hand might allude to her work as a sharecropper in rural Georgia, where she and her husband raised their ten children. Benny Andrews often drew inspiration from his family’s struggles as a foundation for his work. He depicted his mother in additional portraits, often seated with a book in her lap, perhaps reminding him of her devotion to education. Viola Andrews instilled in her children the importance of religion, education, and creative expression. She encouraged her son in his pursuit of art. The portrait of Viola Andrews might be interpreted as an ode to her efforts to support her family with persistence and determination.