As a committed social and political activist for more than fifty years, May Stevens has addressed the challenging political, social, and cultural conditions of American life, with a specific concentration on the oppression of women. Stevens received her B.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art before continuing her studies at the Academie Julian, Paris, and the Art Students League, New York, eventually earning her M.F.A. equivalency from the New York City Board of Education. The artist often works in series and over the course of her distinguished career she has incorporated history and narrative into her work while tackling some of the most important contemporary social and political issues.
"Benny Andrews, the Artist, and Big Daddy Paper Doll" is from a series of paintings and prints that Stevens created beginning in the late 1960s that deal directly with various aspects of the Vietnam War and a general overarching notion of patriarchal power. This particular painting includes Stevens' close friend, the African American painter, and collage artist, Benny Andrews with the uniform of a police officer, as a symbol of dominant hegemonic authority. On the one hand, the painting is a vociferous protest against this authority and at the same time serves as a tribute to Andrews, who was teaching art to prisoners at Riker's Island with Stevens' husband, Rudolf Baranik, at the time.