Ben “Joe” Summerford
Ben L. Summerford Jr. (b. 1924, Montgomery AL; d. 2015, Hagerstown, MD), was better-known as Joe to most people early in his career: a name that stuck around later in life. (The nickname was a Southern affectation given him by his mother, Ollie-Jo, to differentiate young Ben from his father, Ben Sr.) Summerford came to painting late, after a youth spent studying piano. Before joining the Navy in 1943, he spent a year at the Birmingham Conservatory of Music. After his service in the Navy, and a brief stint in the Office of Naval Intelligence, he enrolled at American University and studied painting, completing his bachelor’s in 1948. A Fulbright award in 1949 interrupted his graduate studies at American, and took him to Paris for a year. A position teaching in the Art Department at American University brought him back to DC in 1950, where he taught for 38 years (he would teach at the university for four years before completing his master’s degree).
Summerford exhibited regularly in DC, showing frequently at Whyte Book Store and Franz Bader Gallery. He also exhibited at the Barnett Aden Gallery with Robert Gates, Leonard Maurer, Kenneth Noland, and Morris Louis in the winter of 1956.
When the Jefferson Place Gallery opened in 1957, Summerford had assumed the role of Chairman of the Art Department at American University. After a decade at the Jefferson Place, he parted company with the gallery, citing creative differences with its clear direction toward more conceptual approaches to contemporary art.
1959—Paintings, Jan. 6—24
1963—Paintings, Oct. 22—Nov. 16
1957—First Group Show, Oct. 10—Nov. 9
1957—Christmas Show, Dec. 9—Jan4, 1958
1958—The Group +2, May 20—June 17
1958—12 Washington Artists, University of Kentucky, Oct. 19—Nov. 16
1958—Christmas Show, Nov. 25—Dec. 31
1959—Member’s Show, April 21—May 2
1959—Approaches to Contemporary Painting, Sept. 22—Oct. 10
1959—Christmas Show, Dec. 15—Jan. 2
1960—End of Year Review, May 17—June 11
1961—Winter ’61, Twentieth Century Gallery, Williamsburg, VA, Jan 9—Feb. 17
1961—Review and Preview, May 22—June 4
1961—The Year Ahead, Oct. 3—Nov. 4
1961—Paper Show, Dec. 5—Jan. 5, 1962
1962—Small Paintings and Sculpture, Jan. 7–27
1962—Group Show, Oct. 2—20
1965—Grand Opening, Jan. 25—Feb. 13
1967—Group Show, Jan. 2—21