Allen T. Stringfellow was born in Champaign, Illinois in 1923.
Like any artist, his art is shaped by the experiences of his youth, and the environments in which he found himself. The scenes Stringfellow depicts in his works embrace the culture and vibrance of the African American community.
Kathryn Koca Polite, Assistant Curator and Publications Specialist at Krannert Art Museum, discovered in her research on Stringfellow that he “first began working with collage and watercolor out of a desire to explore the depth and movement that could be uniquely achieved by combining these two mediums.”
Stringfellow realized that the essence of the African American community could not be fully captured in one medium; like the layers of his art, the everyday life of a black individual is complex. This complexity is something Stringfellow figured out at a young age. His formative years were spent with his grandmother in Champaign. Here, he would find inspiration from the countless open air baptisms and picnics on the bank of Champaign's Crystal Lake. It was these moments with his Christian community that would shine through in his works, like Party on the Grass After Baptism, that reminisce on scenes black people commonly experience.
Stringfellow moved with his father later in life to Chicago, a city buzzing with jazz and nightlife. His father was a jazz musician himself, exposing Stringfellow to a familiar aspect of the black experience, but one may have conflicted or created tension with his Christian upbringing.
Stringfellow reflects the rhythm of jazz music in the piece Street Smarts II, where he "creates a jazz-like effect of punctuating notes running throughout the scene" by combining "disparate materials, such as pieces of fabric and rubber material used to make basketballs."
Just as Stringfellow's life contained layers of experience, he utilized multiple types of media in a single work of art to create a single, harmonized whole. The resulting works of art are positive images from Stringfellow's life, depicting a range of happenings in the black community.
Author: Teya Ridgeway, Marketing Assistant (BS '20 Advertising), 2020.