Major art show celebrating Black History Month features once-homeless Houston artist

You know the saying "one man’s trash is another’s treasure"? Houston artist Charles Washington knows it well. 

One of his greatest works is made from the rags he wore when he was homeless.

"It’s about a group of people that have been worn out, you know," Washington says as he shows me a stunning sculpture that tells a story of people on a tough journey.

It's his story of when he, his wife, and daughter were homeless.

"All these are the garments we wore at the time and the faces are down. There are no eyes."

He calls it "The Blanket" because not only is it a resin glaze over the actual clothing they wore but also the blanket that kept them warm when they didn’t have a home.

"Look at the blanket it’s worn out to show what it went through but also what the people that’s wearing the blanket went through. The piece symbolizes hope and unity," Washington explains.


"I really like this one," a man enjoying Washington’s art show smiles and points out a rendering of a jazz musician with a saxophone hanging on the wall. "I feel like the fact that the music is plastered on his shirt, on his face but it’s not on his tie and the physical things it’s supposed to represent the music is in his blood," the man goes on to say. 

Washington's current art show is at University of Houston Clear Lake where you’ll see most of his art is made from what some would consider trash.

"I’m an upcycle person. I use materials that have been given to me".  Like Washington's door collection, painted metaphors representing going through or coming out of something. "It’s called what’s in a door. The reason I started painting doors is because I didn’t have anything else to paint on."

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The indoor-outdoor exhibit is entitled ‘Who is Charles Washington?’ a man who since he was a kid, making news as an athlete was an artist to the core.

"I consider myself a Renaissance Man. When you come to the show you’ll see painted rocks, painted cars, painted jackets."

One of his works features a photo of Washington and President Barack Obama. It tells the story of a 92-year-old man who wrote out his poll tax number as part of his story. Of course, a poll tax was a fee paid for the right to vote that kept many blacks from casting ballots.

"You see it’s in his handwriting. That’s art right there. Remembering his poll tax shows you how important voting was for him. For him to be able to walk in there at 92 years old and vote for an African American president that was one of his goals in life," Washington says.

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The exhibit runs through March 19, 2021 at UHCL Pearland and at UH Clear Lake where 'The Blanket' is on display.

"To be standing next to this piece in this marvelous gallery, dreams come true," smiles Washington.      

You can find Charles Washington’s The Harambee Art Gallery on Almeda Road in Third Ward.