Northwest African-American Fine Arts Exhibit

They say you can't keep a good man down. In 1994, Seattle-born resident Robert L. Horton designed a 31-foot-by-17-foot mural for Seattle Public Library's Rainier Beach branch: Unmask Your Mind graced the eastern wall of the library's exterior for 10 years before being destroyed during a 2004 remodel. But Horton is back. He and his sister Annie Hudson McKnight are the brains behind the Northwest's Annual African-American Fine Arts Exhibit, now in its second year. Inspired by the 2005 10th annual Black Heritage Show in Baltimore, the brother/sister team dreamed of spearheading a similar exhibit here that would spotlight emerging Northwest African-American artists. What has it revealed? A number of artists refer either directly or indirectly to African roots. Cleveland Smith borrows African textiles to create brightly colored quilts, while Jacqueline Scott's fabric dolls extol the beauty of black women. Hence their moniker "jamila"—Swahili for "beautiful." Paintings by Samuel E. Blackwell, local artist and owner of the Central District cafe Seattle Central Grind, draw attention to cultural disparity: His Masai of Kenya features nomads striding majestically across the plains, an image in sharp contrast to the grieving figures in his American funereal portrait, Judgement Day (Family of Sniper Victim). Jawara O'Connor's photographs celebrating the power of music appear to close the gap between new and old. My Grandson reveals an older gentleman teaching guitar licks to his younger relative and recalls the legendary African-American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner's tender 1893 painting The Banjo Lesson, which depicted the often derided musical instrument in a brand new light. Artists' Gallery of Seattle, 902 First Ave. S., 206-350-0830, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Tues.-Sat., noon-5 p.m. Sun. Ends July 31.

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