Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jen Graves' review

James Washington Jr.: The Saga

posted by JEN GRAVES on MON, NOV 30, 2009 at 4:06 PM

James Washington Jr. working on his bust of MLK.
  • James Washington Jr. working on his bust of MLK.
What do you say we focus on another black man in Seattle for a while?

Last week, just before Thanksgiving, I met Tim Detweiler at Woodside/Braseth Gallery to walk through The Spirit in the Stone: A Centennial Celebration & Exhibition Honoring James W. Washington, Jr.Detweiler was practically breathless. He talked for a half-hour before I got a word in, and before we even looked at the late Washington's art. The reason why: Detweiler has been buried in a mountain of fascinating stuff for the last year or so, and it's like he traveled to an undiscovered land and must. get. the. stories. out.

The exhibition does a solid job of starting things off for him, and it's a generous act by Woodside/Braseth, considering that much of the work on display is not for sale but instead either owned by the James and Janie Washington Foundation (open by appointment at 1816 26th Avenue) or owned by private collectors.

David, 1958. The mount coil could be a ground wire from a battleship; Washington worked as an electrician for ships in Bremerton for years.
  • David, 1958. The mount coil could be a ground wire from a battleship; Washington worked as an electrician for ships in Bremerton for years.
Raw paintings and collages tell the early story.Making of the United Nation Charter, from 1945, shows hands turning to bone and heads to skulls. The charter was supposed to include an expansion of freedoms for African Americans after the war. But it didn't. Four years later, another painting, with thick impasto sections and also collaged newspaper clippings, drew together Washington's brutal Mississippi past with a not-as-different-as-you'd-like Seattle present (he moved to Seattle in 1944). The painting is called Democracy Challenged, and it pictures the Statue of Liberty, her torch's flame going up into a newspaper headline: "Fiery Cross 'K.K.K.' Note Found Near -- Home" beneath "House Defeats Civil-Rights Part of Housing Bill." On the other side of the painting, balancing Lady Liberty on the scales of justice, are three lynched bodies. A headline, also from the Seattle Times, dated Thursday, September 8, 1949, reads, "Mrs. Roosevelt Says: North as Bad as South in Discrimination." In addition to the daily personal debasements Washington had to endure growing up in small-town Mississippi, his father had been "disappeared" after threats from the KKK. Washington Jr. never figured out what happened to Washington Sr., even after putting a couple of Pinkertons on the case later in his life.

Bunny rabbit, 1965
  • Bunny rabbit, 1965

What's amazing is that Washington started showing his art pretty much as soon as he got to Seattle, and never really stopped. He wasn't the established, university-based, powerhouse figure that Jacob Lawrence was, but he was a constant presence until his death in 2000. And his greatest medium was stone carving. At Woodside/Braseth are several examples of his irresistible animal carvings (they're almost entirely in the round), as well as a self-portrait bas-relief he made in 1976, the same year he made one of Mark Tobey (it was the year Tobey died). This is his only self-portrait in stone.

Detweiler is the first first full-time, permanent director of the foundation—housed at the Washington home and studio, where there are still piles of granite awaiting carving—and he and a small team of helpers have been making discoveries in the archives. They found a letter from Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros inviting him to dinner (he accepted). In the crawl space below the studio they found memos from Washington's work with the Congress of Racial Equality in Seattle in 1960 (they'd demand parity, and if bosses didn't make at least a good-faith effort, they'd picket).

In 1968, Washington was commissioned by Leon Sullivan to do a series of six busts of African Americans for the rotunda of a black-owned mall in Philadelphia. (The picture above shows Washington working on the MLK bust.) The busts were vandalized by whites—actually given white-face—until they were finally removed, and then lost. Until now!

Detweiler and his team (including Susan Platt) called the mall to try to find the busts, and nobody knew where they were, so they started looking. It turns out they'd been hiding for 15 years under a stairwell, some of the white paint still on them. Thanks to Detweiler and the foundation, they've been found. They're staying in (and owned by) the mall in Philadelphia, which is being renovated.

See the show, which also includes a room of works by Washington's friends and contemporaries, before it closes December 12. More images...

Bear cub with food, 1966
  • Bear cub with food, 1966

Democracy Challenged, 1949
  • Democracy Challenged, 1949

Dorset lamb reclining, 1979
  • Dorset lamb reclining, 1979

Making of the United Nation Charter, 1945
  • Making of the United Nation Charter, 1945

Self-portrait, 1976
  • Self-portrait, 1976

Market in Mexico City, block print, 1953
  • Market in Mexico City, block print, 1953

Entertainment | Review: Washington centennial show traces stages of artist's powerful voice | Seattle Times Newspaper

Entertainment | Review: Washington centennial show traces stages of artist's powerful voice | Seattle Times Newspaper

A Great Review by Susan Platt


Roger Shimomura and other shows

I miss my blog so much, I am really tired of editing my book, so here is a quick entry late on Saturday afternoon.
The Roger Shimomura show "Yellow Terror" at the Wing Luke Museum is a rare opportunity to see the artists collections of racist kitsch juxtaposed to his paintings. The kitsch collections have been given to the Wing Luke Museum, but the really urgent reason to go the show several times is to see the way he brilliantly uses these racist stereotypes in his art. He barely transforms them, except in scale. We can hardly believe how well he does it.

Yellow Terror, the title piece of the exhibition- this is a detail- is a dizzying array of World War II "Japs," crammed against each other, flying through the air, climbing on top of each other At the center is the artist himself calmly self caricaturing himself in the midst of the mass of caricatures. The caricatures sources are all on display next to the paintings, and unbelievably, we find ourselves laughing at Shimomura's humor, at the same time that we know he is deadly serious. Racist stereotyping is so awful, it is hard to believe.
As in Different Citizens, 2009, above, a self portrait next to a Japanese stereotype This is a large painting,three feet by almost four feet. There is Roger on the right, he is an understated quiet person, a distinguished professor. There is the stereotype, the big ears, slanted eyes, big mouth, buck teeth, and the officer on the left. But the point here is not old/new, The point is that the World War II stereotypes are still with us. Everyday, everywhere. That is why he has included a collection of salt and pepper shakers. Racism with your salt.
It permeates, it sits there. Even at the opening, he pointed out an account of a new racist film The Goods, Live Hard Sell Hard" which has a mob beating up a Japanese American. Nothing has really changed except the surface..

Roger's artistic facility with different vocabularies is also astonishingAs seen in the other painting here, American Portrait no 2, 2002, Shimomura can play with tradition Japanese images, straight cartoon, Walt Disney cartoon types, and all arranged in amazing compositions that are far more complex than they appear to be. This composition with its boxes within boxes and the idea of a may different types of stereotypes juxtaposed to the Kibuki actor playing a warrior from Ukiyo e prints ( is this an "authentic" stereotype?), is all by itself worth a long analysis.

I highly recommend Jen Graves article in the Stranger as a great review.

On the subject of opposing racism, a different perspective is offered by the James Washington House exhibition of artists who have had residencies there which is currently on view at the Pratt Gallery. The opening itself was a delight. Tim Detweiller has brilliantly brought together a wonderful mix of artists from different backgrounds, all of them making provocative work inspired by the studio and left -behind materials of the sculptor James Washington. In this installation shot you see Joe Max Emmenger well- known Seattle artist next to Charles Parrish work known only to some communities.This is Daniel Minter's work New Path Revealed. It is a subtle work, a broom, with beading and a silk shower cap like top that becomes a ceramic okra plant. In the background are prints of various African American figures in traditional types of work.
Then there is the wooden sculpture by Romson Bustillo called A spell to remember or forget. Bustillo is a brilliant artist and community activist. He is from Mindanao, Philippines. He draws on abstract patterns from textiles here, and other sources to create evocative pieces that contain magical energy.
Esther Ervin's Pipe Dreams is self contained, elegant, and dreamlike. Ervin is an artist with a subtle sensuality that plays out in different media. At the James Washington House she worked with the wax thread on spools from old recording devices.
Other artists in the exhibition included Marita Dingus, and Jite Agbro, but I am out of time for now.
The point is that each of these artists is approaching the inspiration of James Washington from their own perspectives and different backgrounds. And the opening was a truly mixed group of artists and audience. Bravo James Washington Foundation.

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James Washington Jr. - spiritual matter - Another Bouncing Ball

James Washington Jr. - spiritual matter - Another Bouncing Ball

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Monday, November 16, 2009

100th Birthday Celebration

James W. Washington, Jr. 100th Birthday Celebration. A wonderful, intimate evening.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Daniel Minter

Daniel Minter

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

City Wide 100th Birthday Celebration of Artist James W. Washington, Jr.

The James and Janie Washington Foundation will take part in a citywide 100th birthday celebration of James Washington. Mr. Washington moved to Seattle in 1944 from the Deep South. Upon reaching the Northwest, he began to use his artwork to express his social concerns and devoted his entire life to representing the African American community through public service. His work is included in major collections around the country including the Smithsonian, the Whitney, SFMOMA and the Seattle Art Museum.

After his passing in 2000, his legacy is carried on by the James and Janie Washington Foundation through community programs and exhibitions. The Foundation is located in the artist’s historic home and studio in the Central District of Seattle. It is a cultural center that serves as an educational tool, an artist’s refuge, and a historic landmark. It is a forward-looking institution based on the life of an African American pioneer in the visual arts and social justice.

This year, Mr. Washington would have turned 100 years old and the Foundation is celebrating his contributions to the Seattle Community with events and exhibitions throughout the city.

There are several institutions that have partnered with the Foundation to commemorate the life and legacy of Mr. Washington.

Sunday Afternoon Celebration at Mount Zion Baptist Church

Where: 1634 19th Avenue, Seattle, WA
When: November 1, 2009

Exhibition at Pratt Fine Arts Center

Continuing the Legacy, an exhibition showcasing work from recipients of the James & Janie Washington Foundation Artist-in-Residence Program, including Jite Agbro, Romson Bustillo, Marita Dingus, Joe Max Emminger, Daniel Minter and Esther Ervin.
Where: Pratt Gallery at Tashiro Kaplan Studios,
306 S Washington St, Suite 102, Seattle
When: November 5 - 27, 2009
Opening: First Thursday, November 5, 6 - 8pm
Gallery Hours: Fridays and Saturdays, 12 - 5pm and by appointment

100th Birthday Celebration– party, entertainment, and art

Where: The Ruins, 570 Roy Street, Seattle, WA 98109
When: November 8, 2009, 6 pm
Contact the Foundation for tickets: 206-709-4241

Woodside/Braseth Gallery

James W. Washington, Jr: Looking Back 
Where: 2101 9th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121
When: November 12, 6pm

The James & Janie Washington Foundation

Discovering the Spirit in the Stone – A dynamic permanent exhibition about art, Social Justice and the African American migration, set in the context of Mr. and Mrs. Washington’s historic home.
Where: 1816 26th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122
Opening: November 12, 2009
Gallery Hours: Monday-Friday 12-4 and by appointment

Contact: Tim Detweiler @ 709-4241 or

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Io Palmer's Work in Steel

Here is one of the drawings that Io Palmer brought with her when she came to the James & Janie Washington Foundation.  The drawings from her notebook guided her as she began the process of making the work.  Here is a page on her website that describes a bit about her time here

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Iron Artist Competition

This year at the Iron Artist Competition the James & Janie Washington Foundation sent its best people. Artists Esther Ervin, Romson Bustillo and Marita Dingus made us very proud.  They won the critics award and brought home first prize, $200.  They promptly donated the prize money to the Foundation. Aren't they great?
This was a huge competition... 23 teams representing many non-profits near and far.

Romson and Esther celebrate while purple and blue haired angels applaud...
Romson consoles the other artist teams.

Iron Artist Competition Rules:

All materials will be provided by Tacoma Art Museum and unveiled at the beginning of the event. A list of acceptable supplies that you may bring with you to the Iron Artist Challenge will be provided upon registration. The Iron Artist Challege will begin at 6 pm and last for 60 minutes. Judging will take place after the contest, during the fashion show.

The materials to be used will be presented at the beginning of the event, meaning everyone will have exactly the same 60 minutes to plan and execute his or her piece. Each piece must be wearable and ready to wear by a live model that will display the work on the catwalk during the fashion show. At the end of the allotted time, the artwork will be handed in, finished or not, to be judged by our panel. The panel of judges will meet to select the winning pieces during the fashion show, while the artists are given a post-event interview by the host.

Monday, August 3, 2009

nice photo

Photographer James Harnois has been taking pictures at the James & Janie Washington Foundation for the past couple weeks.  Here is a pleasant picture of the house that James Washington bought in 1944.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Io Palmer Bends Steel

The new Artist in Residence at the James & Janie Washington Foundation, Io Palmer, is bending steel and she likes it.  Palmer's newest series of sculptures incorporate steel.  This is a new material for the artist.  

The new sculptures will combine handmade dresses and metal structures meant to represent abstracted and elongated bustles.  The sculptures are on wheels and will be incorporated into a performance piece that will be staged sometime later this year.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Teen Neighborhood Sculpture Tours

The Seattle Art Museum's Design Your Hood students came to the Washington House & Studio last week.  This Thursday a group from the Wing Luke Museum, named YouthCAN, will tour the Foundation.  This is all part of a Neighborhood Tour that the Foundation created to highlight some of James Washington's public sculpture that is located in the Central District.

The students walk through the streets of the CD from piece to piece following a map.  Information on a worksheet gives them history of the community and art.  They finish up at the Washington House & Studio for a tour and lunch.

James Washington standing next to his sculpture, My Testimony in Stone, in 1981.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Channel 7 show filmed at the Foundation

Deborah Horne hosted the show KIRO InColor from the Washington house and studio on Monday.  KIRO InColor is a public affairs show about the diversity of the Pacific Northwest. The show has been honored with four Emmy awards and received national recognition.  Since 1994, the show has explored issues important to the Northwest, specifically the region's minority communities. The series profiles a variety of fascinating people from artists to activists. 

  Ms. Horne interviewed Tim Detweiler, the Foundation's Executive Director, about James and Janie Washington and their role in the Central District. She also explored the property, narrating from the front porch, garden and the house and studio.  
The show aires on Sunday, July 12th at 5:30.  Don't miss it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Joe and his Dog

Joe Max Emminger, Resident Artist Spring 2009, wrote us a nice note about his time in the Washington Studio.  Joe often brought his dog Lily along for company.  

James Washington had a dog named Shemp and it seemed that Lily was always looking to find him...

Joe's Letter:

James Washington House Thoughts

Joe Max Emminger

Spring 2009

I had a residency at the James Washington House for a month in spring 2009.

Mr. Washington was still there too. His garden is there, and his tools, his studio and his books. His clothes are in the closet, and the little bed he slept on for 50 years is still there. It was like he just stepped out for a cup of coffee and I stepped in.

It was a privilege to be there in the very same studio where he had worked for so many years. I am a painter and I don’t know much about sculpture. I tried something new at Washington House. Everyone was helpful and as a result I made four pieces of sculpture that I like. I started in a new direction. 

Thank-you for the opportunity – it was wonderful.


Joe Max Emmiger




Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Artist in Residence 2009-2010

This year the Foundation put out a call to artists throughout Washington State.  We asked artists to propose a project that they would like to accomplish during their one month residency. 

We received a $5,000 gift from Artist Trust to host three artists from the State at James Washington's home and studio.  

The Foundation awarded the residencies to three artists from Pullman, Washington.  There will be more on these talented folks in the coming weeks...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Northwest African American Museum's Brian Carter

This is a great article about Northwest African American Museum's Brian Carter.  Brian has done a great job at the Museum.  His energy makes the Museum Hum.

Friday, May 22, 2009

2009 Newsletter

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

James Washington Sculpture Tour

The James & Janie Washington Foundation has created a walking/driving tour of Public Sculpture by James Washington.  The map covers the Central District in Seattle.  

It starts at the Odessa Brown Children's Clinic and ends at the Washington House.

It can also be found on Google Maps.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Art and Life of James Washington, Jr: An Evening of Music and Discussion

James Washington, Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr., 1954

On Wednesday, May 20, 7:30 to 9:00 PM, at The Valley School, 309 31st Ave. East, the life and art of local artist James B. Washington, Jr. will be the subject of an evening of music and conversation.  Tim Detweiler, Director of the James and Janie B. Washington Foundation, will show examples of Washington’s work and discuss his life and activism in our community. 

Seattle jazz saxophonist and composer Steve Griggs will perform original compositions including two of Washington’s poems he has set to music for the occasion. Griggs writes for and performs with Milo Petersen’s Jazz Disciples

The public is invited to join the Greater Madison Valley Community at our evening event.  For information about CCC@MLK, please see the website:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Celebrate Janie Washington

The James & Janie Washington Foundation
cordially invites you to an 
hors d’oeuvres reception.

Thursday, May 21, 2009
5:30 o’clock until 8:00 o’clock p.m.
Mount Zion Baptist Church
1634 19th Avenue

rsvp: (206) 709-4241 or

Please read Mary Henry's great article about Mrs. Washington on History Link.

Monday, May 11, 2009

WPA art in the Washington Collection

Henry Louis Freund

1905 – 1999


James Washington met Henry Freund in 1943 at Camp Robinson in Little Rock, Arkansas.  They became good friends and exhibited in two art shows together at the base.  

Freund was drafted into WWII and served as a conscientious objector.  He spent his time in the Army painting murals to help illiterate troops understand what they would experience in basic training. 

During the WPA, Freund painted murals in Post Offices in Florida, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and Missouri.  He also traveled through the Ozark Mountains capturing the vanishing culture of the rural areas.  He was famous for his American Genre paintings.