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They Were Very Poor, But Loved

30 x 22 inches mixed charcoal on paper

In “They Were Very Poor, But Loved,” Washington intricately depicts the plight of the sharecropper family.  Sweeping clouds are invoked by Washington to indicate turbulent times.  The hard, backbreaking work of the sharecropper led to stooped, physically destroyed, and mentally blighted black people who could seldom envision escape for themselves or their children.  Their lives were an endless round of poor diet, fickle weather, and the unbeatable figures at the company store. However, the family bond was rarely broken by such dire circumstances. 

“They Were Very Poor, But Loved,” depicts a father figure with exaggerated hands that are symbolically big enough to provide for and protect his family. The young men stand out in the front, learning from their father. The daughter, her father’s jewel, stands off to the side and in a guarded posture -- a position emphasizing a father’s love for her that is undeniable.

The mother gazes upon the family protectively from the house, dressed in her apron. The house, held together with sweat, love and a few boards -- is home to this family and no doubt dreams of a better life for their kids are buried in a bible inside.

The outhouse, and the buckets and barrels, rendered in high detail, are an attempt by the artist to bring the viewer into this time in American history, complete with the emotions and pain that were inescapable.


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