Springfield artists’ self-portrait based on racist experience featured in Springfield Museums exhibit

Black History Month

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – This Black History Month we’re featuring art made by local Black artists. This month at the Springfield museums, an art gallery called “This is Us” features portraits from local artists.

For Black History Month, 22News spoke to Erin Washington, a Springfield native whose self-portrait is in the exhibit. “I was so excited to have my work chosen,” Washington told 22News.

It’s based on a racist experience she had at art school. She told 22News a teacher once told her and other black students to keep working while making whipping gestures.

“With the experience I had in that class, I ended up coming back to this painting and putting my own portrait over it as an expression of my voice in the class,” Washington said.

Washington told 22News, they didn’t understand when she made art about her blackness. “Going to school in a predominately white institution especially in art academia is a very whitewashed world,” she continued.

For the portrait she took a non-traditional route, painting acrylic paint over an oil background as a statement on being yourself. “I think the nature of blackness also is creative,” Washington said.

She grew up visiting the Springfield Museum, always wanting a career in art ever since she learned at an art intensive program to see and express herself through art.

“Especially during Black History Month, with black artists, having so much creativity to bring to life is just a celebration of what we can do and who we are. Really just take [the] time to honor and celebrate black artists and just support black artists, “she told 22News.

She hopes her work empowers other black artists to express themselves freely. You can find more of her work here. The ‘This is Us’ exhibit goes through May 2021.

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