Ana Bel Lee Washington

'Rejoice!'

Ana Bel Lee Washington (b. 1924, Detroit, Mich.; d. 2000, St. Simons Island, Ga.) began her artistic practice late in life after a long career as a social worker and activist. She first visited the Georgia coastal region in her 60s and became so enthralled with the landscape and community that she relocated to the area immediately after her retirement, living the rest of her life on her beloved St. Simons Island. In this phase of her life, Washington volunteered at a local art center where she began taking painting classes and quickly developed a singular style that brought her renown in the close-knit community and surrounding area as a local artistic treasure.

signature image for Ana Bel Lee Washington exhibition
Ana Bel Lee Washington, "Sea Island Festival," 1989, 24 x 30 in. Collection of Jonèe and Tina McElroy Ansa, St. Simons Island, Ga.

The 18 paintings on view in Rejoice!, collected across the years by Washington’s friends and advocates Jonèe and Tina McElroy Ansa, perfectly encapsulate her unique vision in an expressive extension of her warm personality and humanistic involvement in the community. The colorful clothes she wore and her keen observation of culture are reflected in her richly saturated paintings and the techniques she used to represent groups of people in joyous collectivity. Washington’s jubilant scenes of Black life “depicted the South for Black people as it could have been,” sharing an optimism and sense of togetherness that continue to inspire today.

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Credits

Rejoice! is organized by SCAD Museum of Art chief curator Daniel S. Palmer and presented as part of SCAD deFINE ART 2023.

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