Washington, D.C. artist Stan Squirewell’s work is infused with the spirit of his great aunt who, like a great matriarch, summoned her family to her bedside as she was about to pass on. He recalled, “My great aunt was basically on her deathbed in the stages of her transition. That’s when she called everyone to have a meeting to tell us about our history.”
She told the assembled family members that their ancestors were originally from Barbados, before its “discovery” and colonization by Europeans. “She told us my great-grandfather [and] my great-great-grandfather came to this country from Barbados and that they were indigenous to Barbados,” Squirewell continued. “And I had never heard it and did not know that at all. I thought, according to what I was given at school, that we were brought here on slave ships. I didn’t know that there was a Black presence in this hemisphere that predated Columbus.”
Since that long night so many years ago, Squirewell has been fascinated with his family’s history in particular and Black history in general. He uses his art in part as a tool to investigate the ways in which history is crafted and presented to people of color.
Squirewell uses mixed media, including wood, plastic, acrylic and other materials to “challenge people to look deeper into their history, especially people of color.” “Because what I found is that the history that I was given is not the history—that’s not the only history,” he said.
April 26, 2018