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The Artist for Emanuel Benefit to Feature Paintings of E.B. Lewis at the Wells Gallery
11/4/2015 3:13:45 PM



From the Wells Gallery   

For the month of November, the Wells Gallery will feature new paintings from famed watercolor artist, E.B. Lewis, in celebration of his new series of work titled I, Human.  We will host an Artist Reception on Thursday, November 12th from 5-8pm.  The artists will be in attendance, and it is open to the public at no charge.
The I, Human series presents figures with featureless faces.  The artist explains that the brain works to “fill-in” the details that are omitted from the painting, causing the viewer to put their own details and story to the piece.  It individualizes the work and the figure becomes “Every Person”.  The viewer can see them self in the figure regardless of race, age, or gender.  E.B.’s statement is that we are all the same.  We are all human.
All pieces belonging to this series will be identified as IH (for I, Human), and the number in which they were created to further separate them from a specific title or ‘story’, leaving them more open to the viewers’ interpretations.
One of E.B. Lewis’ paintings from this series was chosen as the poster art for the ‘Artists for Emanuel’ event to benefit the Emanuel AME Church.  This was the site in which nine people were tragically killed on June 17th.  The benefit events are November 10-11.  

E.B. will be speaking at the Art of Healing Symposium on November 10, and will do a national radio interview.  He is working on 10 new pieces for this event as well, and our gallery will host a cocktail reception for E.B. on November 12th.  For more information on the benefit, and how you can donate, please visit
Along with the I, Human series, E.B. Lewis will be discussing his Cotton Series and presenting new works from that collection at our November 12th reception.  The Cotton series portrays the state of slavery in the late 1700s.  He was inspired to paint slaves at work in the fields because those scenes are very rarely depicted, and the viewer is confronted with the reality of the time.  His works are unlike most of that genera in that his slave figures are not solemn and worn, but represented in the same fashion that many Native Americans are represented in art; as prideful images with their heads held strong standing above their circumstances.  His figures seem to be saying, “You may own my body, but you don’t own my soul.”  This in particular can be seen in his piece, Cotton Tower.  The woman is standing tall in the field holding her child which she will raise with the same sense of pride and hope.  These watercolors comprise the direction of EB’s life’s work in which he brings his viewer not just beautiful paintings, but paintings imbued with meaning and political statements.
Possibly the most politically driven piece thus far is The Plaintiffs.  The three figures in this piece stand in a vast cotton field facing the “big house”.  Upon closer inspection, the viewer will see that the house in the distance is The White House.  E.B.’s inspiration for this watercolor is the role slaves played in the construction of The White House and our Nation’s Capital.
In 1780, Pennsylvania passed An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery.  The act prohibited further importation of slaves into the state and required that slave owners register their slaves annually, but it also respected the ‘property rights’ of Pennsylvania slaveholders by not freeing slaves already in the state. Slaveholders who failed to register their slaves annually lost their slaves to manumission.  
It also allowed non-resident slaveholders visiting Pennsylvania to hold slaves in the state for up to six months.  This created a loophole in that a slaveholder could not take-up official residency, and then take his slaves out of Pennsylvania for 24 hours before the 6 month deadline and it would void his slave’s residency thus allowing the slaveholder to keep his slaves indefinitely without having to register or follow the gradual abolition laws.  
Philadelphia became the temporary national capital for a ten year period in 1790.  The Attorney General, Edmund Randolph, advised George Washington to use this loophole. It was thought that he followed this advice by rotating the enslaved Africans in his presidential household in and out of Pennsylvania.
At the time, the location of the permanent Capital was in discussion, and The Residence Act of 1790 was passed.  It is the federal law that settled the question of locating the Capital of the United States, selecting a site along the Potomac River.  The Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was pushing for Congress to pass a financial plan in which the Federal government would assume the states’ debts incurred during the American Revolutionary War.  
Though is it no secret that slave labor was used to build the foundation of our Nation’s Capital, it is also not widely known and is not depicted in art.  E.B. Lewis created this piece in an effort to bring this history to light, and to give many African-Americans a sense of pride.  He feels that many African-Americans still feel like outsiders in our country and he wants to impart on them the feeling that they do belong and that they are an integral part of the greatness of the country.  The history should be seen and understood by all to get a true sense of the role slaves played in making the Capital and how it could not have been achieved without them.



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