Bealsville folk artist Ruby C. Williams dies
Ruby C. Williams, a self-taught artist, minister and farmer from Bealsville whose playful but edgy paintings have hung in galleries across the country, died Monday.
- Williams' longtime friend and champion Katherine Gibson confirmed Williams' death and told Axios Williams' large family was planning a memorial service for Aug. 20.
- Williams was known for refusing to give her age to reporters, saying she didn't want her paintings to be priced according to how soon people thought she'd die. But friends said she was 92.
Why it matters: Soft-spoken and shy, Williams — who signed all her work R.C.W. — is one of the Tampa Bay area's best-known artists of the last three decades, and one of Florida's leading folk artists.
- In 2005, she received the Florida Folk Heritage Award and her work was featured in the exhibition "On Their Own: Selected Works by Self-Taught African American Artists" at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum in Washington.
- In 2009, the Folk Art Society of America gave her its Award of Distinction.
Flashback: Decades ago, Williams moved from Chicago back home to Bealsville, 40 minutes east of Tampa, after the devastating end to a relationship.
- She began painting signs to sell produce at a small stand off Highway 60, but sometimes painted recurring characters and fanciful creatures.
- In the early 1990s, Rodney Hard, a Lakeland-based folk artist and collector, stopped and asked if she'd sell him a painting.
- Word spread as art collectors flocked to rural Florida to scoop up paintings with curious quips like "piano playing cow I give better buttermilk" or "I am a sophisticated person."
Yes, but: No matter how famous she got, Williams kept selling cucumbers, watermelon and strawberries.
- "You can eat the fruit, but you can't eat the art," she once told a reporter.
What's next: A service will be held at 11am on Aug. 20 at St. Mary's Church, 5360 Smith Ryals Road in Plant City, not far from Williams' produce stand.
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