Antiques Dealers Association of America

James W. Washington, Jr.: Stone Mason

Author: Steven S. Powers
Published: Wed, Apr 8th, 2020

Bird Family

The son of an African American Baptist minister who was run out of town by the Ku Klux Klan and never to be seen again, and a deeply religious and supportive mother, James W. Washington, Jr. (1909-2000) knew from an early age that he had something unique within him—that his abilities and imagination would manifest and take him away from the segregated and oppressive environs of Gloster, Mississippi.

Washington’s spirited, but quiet carvings are often seen as a cross between two other direct carvers; the African American Folk Artist William Edmondson (1874-1951) and American sculptor John Flannagan (1895-1942). Washington felt that it was the spirit of God that he drove into stone to bring it to life. Edmondson thought his work was driven by the hand of God, while Flannagan felt that direct carving or taille directe, ensured vitality to the final carving. Improvisationalists know that something too studied may be proficiently academic, but often void of life. Therefore, Washington took right to the chisel—life starts with a spark—like a hammer’s first blow against granite!

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