Marie Calloway

April 10, 1920 - February 11, 2018

Born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1920, Marie Johnson Calloway was an exceptional human being, a pioneer, a gifted artist, a humanitarian, a teacher, and a visionary. She enhanced the lives of her family and community with her wide-reaching love, creativity, determination and intelligence. She modeled a multi-faceted life, making profound contributions to society, all the while, embodying an everlasting beauty, grace and flair.

Marie was a courageous pioneer and revolutionary, playing a significant role in the civil rights movement through her art and participation on the frontlines. She was the first African American to teach in the San Jose Unified School district. She served as president of the San Jose, CA branch of the NAACP. She joined the Selma March with her husband and was jailed along with 360 other civil rights activists. She served on numerous civic and human relations advisory committees, working to confront racial injustice and create positive social change.

Marie was an accomplished visual artist, best known for her painting, mixed media assemblages and installations. Her art grew out of her resourcefulness and reflected the diverse facets of her own life and vision. She explored various mediums and techniques, creating representational, impressionistic and abstract art forms. She was moved by the inherent beauty of nature and rendered lyrical landscapes. As a Black artist and activist, she felt it important to express the many dimensions of the Black Experience. She developed a signature style, integrating found objects, personal items, clothing, paint and wood to depict the textured lives and stories of her subjects, shedding light on their history, beauty, strength, intelligence, pain, love and hope. She challenged the skewed lens of racism, portraying the humanity and dignity of African Americans and giving voice to the Black narrative. Her art often embodied the synthesis of the spiritual and physical worlds, She believed that her art could not be separated from her experience, and she made an effort to “relate the personal with universal concerns.”

Marie received a Master of Arts Degree in painting from San Jose State University, an Experienced Teacher Fellowship from Stanford University, and a Doctoral Equivalency from San Francisco State University. She was a professor of art at San Jose State University, California College of Arts and Crafts and San Francisco State University.

Marie held her first art show in Fairbanks, Alaska and went on to exhibit extensively throughout her career. Her works have been shown in numerous galleries and museums, including MoAD, Triton Museum, Bedford Gallery, Hammer Museum, and Howard University. She received much acclaim for her solo installations, “Hope Street”, displayed at the Oakland Museum, and “Mama’s Room”, presented at Morgan State University. Many of her works are part of permanent museum and private collections. She was well recognized for her artistic and activist contributions and frequently lectured on art and socio-political issues. She received awards from the National Women’s Caucus for the Arts, Oakland Museum, Florsheim Art Foundation, and San Francisco Arts Commission. Her works have appeared in numerous publications.

Marie has blessed her family and community with a rich legacy of artistic expression, political activism, and teaching. She has demonstrated the value of strong family and friendship bonds. She has modeled courage, integrity, and a passion for living in her every step, serving as a way-bearer and an inspiration to us all.