As we celebrate women this month, we are reminded of the dedication and passion women have displayed to preserving legacies, expanding how we understand the art of those gone before us, and for the vision of emerging young women artists. We are inspired to shine a light on three women in our community this month, each of them carriers of light for art's sake.
Reverend LaVerne C. Hall stewards a significant art legacy as president of the Board of Directors for the Dr. James and Janie Washington Cultural Center in Seattle. Described by Hall as a "living time capsule," the cultural center is located in the Central District, in the former Washington home. Hall presides over the collection, preservation, and artist residency programs made available through the cultural center. Having met the couple when they were all members of Mount Zion Baptist Church, Reverend Hall was one of the first members of the foundation established by the couple in 1997 to continue to support artists and others in the community beyond their lifetime. Both James and Janie passed away in 2000 but Reverend Hall keeps the light and the mission shining bright for us all.
Aside from her stewardship of the Washington legacy, Reverend Hall is living history. At a spry 85 years old, she has at least forty years of pastoral history at the historic Mount Zion Baptist Church in her rearview mirror. A gifted artist, for eighteen years, Reverend Hall used her Black doll creations in prison and outreach ministries, developing the largest and oldest traveling doll show in the world. She's published several books of poetry, greeting cards, and the magazine DollArtVenture. Hall has been the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, but she counts among her most memorable, a 1985 designation as a Black Woman Who Makes It Happen alongside Maxine Waters, and Septima Clark, partially sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women, an organization to which Reverend Hall has dedicated much of her time, talent, and leadership.
Carletta Carrington Wilson, a literary and visual artist, has taken on a completely unique approach to the preservation of the Washington legacy. Wilson spent time in 2011 as an artist-in-residence at the Washington Cultural Center. During her residency, she created four mixed media installations across the property, touching on themes from the Washington’s lives, Black history, the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, the American Civil War, religion, and spirituality.
For Wilson, the Washington library and archives provided intimate glimpses into the couple’s lives and creative inspiration. During her residency, Carletta kept a journal of her activities which formed the basis for her recently released book, Poem of Stone and Bone: The Iconography of James W. Washington Jr. in Fourteen Stanzas and Thirty-One Days. Carletta’s journey of discovery on the grounds is meticulously detailed in the book, which also contains a poem comprised completely of book titles from the Washington Library.
Carletta is a deeply rooted artist. Her artist books can be found in the Book Art Collections of the Allen Library (Suzzallo), at the University of Washington, Collins Library, University of Puget Sound and Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, and her visual art of mixed-media collages have been exhibited at galleries and museums across the Puget Sound region.
Rosalind Lindsey, better known as Yazzy, is an artist with a heart rooted in activism. A muralist, painter, and digital artist, Yazzy’s journey into the arts world began at the tender age of 14. Inspired by artisans in her own family, Yazzy’s passion and creativity continue to blossom.
As an activist, Yazzy participated in CHAZ protests in Seattle at the height of the COVID pandemic and racial unrest. The heightened awareness of social injustice and systemic racism was a catalyst for Yazzy, a young bi-racial female, to embrace art as a form of expression and an outlet for channeling her own feelings. Art became her passion!
Just a few short years after dedicating herself to art, Yazzy has found firm footing in her artistic outlook. Her artist statement speaks to her art as “depictions of moments in daily life through her eyes.” At this stage in her artistic growth, Yazzy continues to experiment with acrylics, resin, paint, paper, and digital experimentation. Her goal as documented in her artist statement, “is to convey a story of a moment in time that would bring awareness as either a statement or as a reminder of the beauty of life’s simplicities.”
Reverend LaVerne Hall, Carletta Carrington Wilson, and Yazzy, through you we have received the gift of arts legacy preservation, exposure to artifacts that give us a better understanding of a phenomenal artistic icon, and the passion of art-ivism, reminding us of our common humanity. Thank you, ladies. We honor you this Women’s History Month.
Learn more about the Dr. James and Janie Washington Foundation and Cultural Center here.
Order a copy of Carletta's Poem of Stone and Bone: The Iconography of James W. Washington Jr. in Fourteen Stanzas and Thirty-One Days via Raven Chronicles Press.
And you can check out Yazzy’s art on Instagram @yazzy_artwork