A n n --G r a v e s- -T a n k s l e yTT- b. - 1 9 3 4



“Her work reflects...a oneness of artist and concept. ...a spiritual awakening. ...Life is full of anticipation and dedication, of acceptance and hope, of faith and survival. These are all present in the works of Ann Tanksley.” —Robert Henke, The Art of Black American Women: Works of Twenty-Four Artists of the Century, McFarland & Company, Inc., 1993.

Following graduation from Carnegie Mellon University, Ann Graves married fellow Pittsburg Homewood native John Tanksley and the couple moved to Brooklyn. Tanksley devoted herself to raising her daughters while working as an art instructor before fully pursuing her own artistic pursuits.

Throughout her early career, Tanksley continued her art education with studies at the Arts League of New York, The New School, the Paulette Singer Workshop in Great Neck, and the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, where she learned monotype printmaking. Tanksley also studied with Norman Lewis, Balcomb Greene, and Samuel Rosenberg.

Tanksley was one of the first members of Where We At: Black Women Artists, Inc., a New York based women’s art collective. The organization was founded by artists Kay Brown, Dindga McCannon, Faith Ringgold, and others associated with the Black Arts Movement. One of Tanksley’s early group exhibits was the collective's 1972 show, “Cooking and Smokin”, held at Weusi-Nyumba Ya Sanaa Gallery in Harlem, NY. Where We At: Black Women Artists and other arts groups of the era, like the Ad Hoc Women’s Art Committee, sponsored exhibits, education, and community initiatives to draw attention to the underrepresentation of women of color artists in major galleries and museums.

Tanksley exhibited as early as the late 1960s, with her work garnering critical acclaim and greater recognition in the 1980s and 1990s. A career turning point was her creation of a large body of work based on the writings of Zora Neale Hurston. During the 1980s she discovered amongst her daughter’s belongings a copy of Hurston’s book, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Tanksley “immediately fell in love with her writing,” she said in a 1996 New York Times interview, naming Hurston as both a “Spiritual Sister” and muse. She said of Hurston “She writes a script of boundless imagery, so alive and relevant that she feeds my imagination.”

Her interest in Hurston led to a collaboration on Zora: A Psychoanalytic and Artistic Interpretation of the Life and Works of Zora Neale Hurston, by psychoanalyst Dr. Hugh F. Butts. Although the book was never published, Tanksey’s more than 200 paintings and monotypes based on Hurston’s writings formed her 1993 exhibition, “Zora Neale Hurston as Muse: Art of Ann Tanksley”. Initially displayed at the Maitland Art Center in Maitland, Florida, the exhibition traveled throughout the United States in the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st Century, receiving wide acclaim.

Tanksley illustrated several books, including The Six Fools by Zora Neale Hurston and adapted by Joyce Carol Thomas (Harper Collins, 2006), and My Heart Will Not Sit Down by Mara Rockliff (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012).

Selected solo exhibitions of Tanksley's work include Acts of Art Gallery, New York, New York, 1973,1974; Spectrum II, Mount Vernon, New York, 1982; Dorsey Gallery, Brooklyn, New York, 1986; Berkeley Repertory Theater, Berkeley, California, 1991; California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland, California, 1991; SOHO20, New York, New York, 1993; Eatonville Museum, Eatonville, Florida, 1994; Maitland Center, Maitland, Florida, 1994; Stella Jones Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1997; Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, 2004; Avisca Fine Art Gallery, Marietta, Ga, 2009.

Tanksley’s group exhibitions include Acts of Art, New York, New York, 1971 University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, 1981; American Women in Art, Nairobi, Kenya, 1985; Museum of African American Art, Los Angeles, California, 1992; National Arts Club, New York, New York, 1994; Kansas City Jazz Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, 1999; Hewitt Collection of African-American Art, Charlotte, North Carolina, 1999; Stanford Center for the Arts, Stanford, Connecticut, 2000; Connecticut Graphics Arts Center, Norwalk, Connecticut, 2001; August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Pittsburgh, PA, 2017; 73 See Gallery, Montclair, New Jersey, 2019.

Tanksley’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Studio Museum in Harlem; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; and Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn, NY. She is also in prominent private collections, including The Bennett Collection of Women Realists, John and Vivian Hewitt Collection, and The Oprah Winfrey Collection.

Untitled (Mother and Child))TT-c. 1960s, Mixed Media on Japan paper.

Signed A. Tanksley in gold in the image, lower right.

Image size 7 3/8 x 4 7/16 inches (187 x 113 mm); front card size 8 11/16 x 5 3/4 inches (221 x 146 mm).

Linoleum cut in black ink on Japan paper, with brushed blue and gold paint, collaged with cloth batik and a metallic gold star; laid unto black construction paper, in excellent condition.

Created as a seasonal greeting, inscribed in the artist's hand on the inside panel Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year -Love, John & Ann.


Untitled (Seated Nude)TT-1984, Oil and Marker.

Signed and dated, lower right.

Image size 24 1/16 x 18 inches (611 x 457 mm).

Oil color and marker on cream wove paper, with fresh colors; the full sheet, painted to the sheet edges, in excellent condition.

Matted to museum standards, unframed.


African American, Portrait, Allegorical, Lightening, Civil War