The Art of Bunch WashingtonI’ve loved art forever—spent many a candy-coated, sticky afternoon as a kid thumbing through art books at my local library and drooling over the works of some of the world’s most renowned artists at any and every museum I could talk a grown-up into taking me to. So when I got my first big check for writing my first book, it only made sense that my first big purchase be a piece of art. That piece was a beautiful multi-media collage of a buxom, hippy Black girl standing under a waterfall, created by artist Bunch Washington.

That was 1997. Though the artwork was (and is) special to me, I hadn’t realized then just how important was Mr. Washington to the arts, particularly as it relates to one of my favorite artists, Romare Bearden. Though Mr. Washington’s son, my friend and AP National Race Writer Jesse Washington, once gave me tidbits about the relationship between the two artists, it would be years later before I discovered that Mr. Washington penned, designed and edited Bearden’s “The Art of Ritual,” the first major book produced about an African American artist. Knowing that Mr. Washington was so close to one of my favorite artists and was, himself, a writer, upped the ante on my regard for my stake in his artwork; my piece, then, became part of the mystique of that colorful renaissance of gifted Black artists and the culture they created.

How pleased, then, am I, 17 years after I purchased Mr. Washington’s work, to have it be a part of a major retrospective of his art? Yes! My piece will hang in the gallery of the Phillips Museum at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, as part of the exhibit, “Painting With Light: the Art of Bunch Washington.” I’ll be participating in the six weeks of lectures and festivities centered around Mr. Washington’s art and legacy and the healing and making of healthy relationships, as explored in the artist’s work and life. Bonus: Mr. Washington’s daughter, Liz Washington De Souza, honored me by naming my previously unnamed artwork, “Denene.”

Now how fly is that?!

Personally, that a piece of my art collection is being honored in this way is invaluable, not just because it reminds me (albeit selfishly) that I chose well when I purchased Mr. Washington’s piece all those years ago, but because of the lesson it allows me to share with my daughters: that Black art and the passion artists and collectors pour into it is valuable. Important. Purposeful. One of my many wishes for my children is that as they get older and start realizing their own dreams and turning them into viable income, that they remember, always, to back our artists. Their life’s work, their vision, their blood, sweat and audacity, deserves our praise and support.

PAINTING WITH LIGHT: The Art of Bunch Washington, is showing at  The Phillips Museum at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, through October 31, 2014. Read more about Mr. Washington and his artwork at BunchWashington.com.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

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