McCallum Tarry, Ruby Blackburn and Four Women on Steps (after unknown photographer, Auburn Avenue Research Library Collection, 2008; Oil on canvas and toner on silk, 61 3/4 x 49 3/4 inches; Burchfield Penney Art Center, Gift of the Burchfield Penney Board of Trustees, 2019
Burchfield Penney Acquires McCallum Tarry Work
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
The Burchfield Penney Art Center has acquired the artwork Ruby Blackburn and Four Women on Steps by McCallum Tarry (Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry). Purchased with funds from members of its board of trustees, the large-scale painting depicts social activist Blackburn (1901-1982) accompanied by members of the League of Negro Women Voters taking bold legislative steps seeking the right to vote.
An unsung hero, Blackburn was a beautician and community activist who organized the TIC (To Improve Conditions) Club (1932), Atlanta Cultural League and Training Center (1945), and the Georgia League of Negro Women Voters (1951). She was also a member of the Democratic Party Executive Committee beginning in 1958 and active in the NAACP and convention programs. “Ruby Blackburn is not widely known for her civil rights efforts but should be hailed for leadership, particularly in encouraging women to get involved,” said Burchfield Penney chief curator Scott Propeack. “It is great that our board members are helping us to make such important artworks part of our collection. Their dedication to our community of artists is what makes them and the Burchfield Penney unique.”
The McCallum Tarry piece is represented in two layers—a strategy utilized by them to make viewers scrutinize the image and reassess the historical record from a contemporary context. One layer is in black and white (a statement itself) and the second has muted colors as would be used in vintage hand-tinted photographs.
Born in Buffalo, artist Jacqueline Tarry received a B.A. in philosophy from Buffalo State and participated in the Whitney ISP program in 2003. Bradley McCallum earned an M.F.A. from Yale University. Their work has been exhibited in Brooklyn, Detroit, New Haven, New York, Santa Fe, Seattle, and Washington DC, and internationally in China, Cuba, France, Ireland, Japan, Spain—to cite part of their long list of achievements.
They have worked to address social inequities since 1998. Through performance, video, sculpture and photography McCallum Tarry examines the aesthetic beauty that masks the subjects that they explore: issues revolving around marginalized members of society, race, social justice, and power dynamics. In 2012, the Burchfield Penney hosted the McCallum Tarry Intersections exhibition, a 13-year collective which explored Jacqueline’s return home and what it meant to look back to the past from where one stands in the present. Ruby Blackburn and Four Women on Steps was part of that landmark exhibition.