Leslie Lovell, Savannah GA

Ruby Williams - Outsider Folk Artist

Born in the 1920s, Ruby C. Williams is from a community formed by freed slaves in the 1860's, Bealsville, Florida. She refuses to tell her age so we take her word for it. She later left the area and lived in New Jersey for more than 25 years becoming evangelistic minister whose mission was to help many underprivileged children “find their way” through spiritual guidance and conveying a “do-what-it-takes-attitude.”

She moved back to Bealsville to farm the land that had been in her family for more than a century. She then opened Ruby's Produce Stand on State Road 60. To draw more attention to her stand she painted vegetables in bright colors which worked in her favor attracting more customers.

In 1991, local folk artist Rodney Hardee, stopped and asked her to do painting of a fish. After he saw the painting, he encouraged her to do more paintings. With his along with encouragement by others an artist was born.

Many of her paintings depict animals (cows, chickens) that lived on her farm, as well as the fruits and vegetables grown there, such as watermelons, peas, and strawberries. Often she writes her “sayings”– some feisty ones, like “Stay Out of My Business,” “Hey, This is My Life” and “Shut Your Mouth” – on her paintings.

She also paints religious subjects and prints Bible verses on those. “I don’t sell the ones with Bible verses on them. It doesn’t seem right,” she says. In 2004, she has illustrated a children’s book, I Am Ruby, published by Cardel Press, Atlanta.

"I've been ministering since I was a kid... I do everything from the bottom of my heart, whether shelling a bucket of beans or making a painting." Her brightly colored paintings speak her messages loudly and clearly. "...I like when people look at it and smile." She says she feels that the work involved in growing and selling food at the produce stand is just as important as, if not more important than, painting.

In 2005, Williams 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’s Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture (now the Anacostia Community Museum) in Washington, D.C. She has been featured in many other exhibitions and private collections worldwide.

Artworks by Ruby Williams - Outsider Folk Artist