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Viewing art is generally linked to standing before the whitewashed walls of an art gallery, but University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Cultural Arts Director Eric Despard had a different idea for displaying Houston mixed-media artist Charles Washington’s exhibition, “Who is Charles Washington?: A Retrospective.”

The physical and virtual exhibition, to open on Jan. 25, is primarily centered in UH-Clear Lake’s Art Gallery, but will extend to other indoor and outdoor locations around UHCL as well as UHCL Pearland campus.

“There are a number of indoor and outdoor areas on both campuses that have wonderful spaces to display art,” Despard said. “All the art can be viewed both physically and virtually.”

Washington, a painter and sculptor originally from South Carolina, said that protecting the environment is a critical part of what inspires him as an artist. “The pieces in this retrospective exhibition each tells the story about how I got to a place in my life,” he said. “Art is both a passion and a necessity to survive. I have some rocks in my exhibition — I saw rocks, and I knew what I would do with them. I put my touch on them and now they’re paperweights. But one of the most important pieces I’ve ever made is a blanket that I put together to help people really understand what was happening in 1989, in that moment of my life.”

The blanket, Washington said, is made from the clothing that he and his family were wearing at that time. “I didn’t have real paint so I used house paint,” he said. “Everything we wore was in that blanket. I really wanted to remember that time. It was the cornerstone of me moving forward in my life. Without that piece, I would not be who I am right now. It shows what happened in the 1980s through the eyes of an African American artist.”

Washington said he considered himself a Renaissance man. “When people see my work, I want them to know I’m an artist who created all different things that came to mind, not just for myself but for people around, to show the importance of upcycling, and growing where you are,” he said. “I want to show what it is to give back, to offer mentorship to others, and the importance of public art. I want people to know who I am as an artist, see my life at certain periods. I was to teach others and share.”

“Who is Charles Washington? A Retrospective” is the first exhibition to extend beyond the confines of the UHCL Art Gallery, the first retrospective of Mr. Washington’s extraordinary work, and the first exhibition to be presented simultaneously on two University of Houston campuses,” said Despard. “We are both honored and proud to present the work of Mr. Washington.”

For more information about UHCL’s Art Gallery or this exhibition, go online.