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Ellen Powell Tiberino

(1937-1992)

TiberinoReposeFull.jpg

Repose, ca. 1960s/1970s, oil on canvas, 36” x 28”
P.O.R.

TiberinoLishaFull.jpg

Lisha, 1960s/1970s, oil on canvas, 46” x 40”
P.O.R.

Ellen Powell Tiberino, matriarch of the Tiberino artist dynasty that includes her artist-husband Joseph and three artist-children (Raphael, Gabriel, and Ellen), often looked to Black women and girls as subjects, in the contexts of motherhood, pregnancy, and childhood, as well as subjects drawn from her neighborhood communities. Her work has been described as expressionistic and passionate with dramatic gestures and dark colorism in her figures, but it can also be described as intimate and highly personal. She struggled for many years with cancer, ultimately losing the battle in 1992.

Tiberino graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1959, where she was awarded a prestigious Cresson scholarship to study throughout Europe. After returning to the US, she lived and worked in New York until she married fellow artist (Joseph) and returned to her hometown of Philadelphia where she continued to create oil paintings, oil pastels drawings, sculptures, murals, and mosaics. In Philadelphia, she was part of social and professional circles that included Moe Brooker, Barbara Bullock, Walter Edmonds, Charles Pridgen, Leroy Johnson, John Simpson, James Dupree, Nanette Carter, Deryl Daniel Mackie, and Charles Searles.

Tiberino’s work has been collected and exhibited extensively at institutions including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Museum of African American Art (Tampa, FL), Delaware Art Museum, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Cheyney University, Woodmere Art Museum, African American Museum in Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie (NJ), Temple University, Ile-Ife Museum of Afro-American Culture, Lincoln University, and the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies.

Through the efforts of her children and now late husband, her legacy continues to live on at the Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum. The museum is part of the Tiberino family compound of houses and structures in Powelton Village (West Philadelphia) that houses paintings, murals, relief sculptures and other artwork in the living spaces, gardens, and yards. Begun in the early 1980s, the compound became a well-known creative “mecca” with regular artist events and gatherings. After the recent death of Joseph Tiberino and the upheavals of the pandemic, the museum has been closed to the public.

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