SEATTLE — In Downtown Seattle, Hiawatha D.'s loft features vivid reminders of something that hadn't happened in his 30 years of being an artist. He received his first-ever standing ovation from everyone in the room after revealing his collection, "Iconic Black Women: Ain't I A Woman."
"I never imagined that kind of response from one of my collections."
The exhibit, which finished its run at the Northwest African American Museum in March, featured figures like Shirley Chisolm, the first Black woman in Congress, and Tennis legend Serena Williams. He also painted a tribute to the 4 young girls killed in the Birmingham Church Bombing of 1963.
"Probably the hardest one for me to paint."
He says it was his wife Veronica Very who gave him the nudge to do it. They had just started dating, after she hired him to work on her Wonder of Women project.
"I was taken aback watching him pour his heart and soul into creating framework for my vision, I thought I'm going to come back for this man and dedicate my passion to his vision. And then we just kind of fell in love," she said.
While Hiawatha paints, Veronica brings the story to life with words. Her book, Dear Sista, pairs his Iconic Black Women exhibit, with a love letter to Black women, inspired by the icon.
Love is at the core of all they do together. They credit their love for helping him recover from a life threatening illness and her from the life altering loss of her daughter.
"I experienced the greatest heartbreak any person can know in losing my child, and Hiawatha literally caught me when I was crumbling," said Veronica.
So together, they promote Black love whenever they can.
They say that Black love isn't just romantic love. It's about taking care of the community, working together, and loving yourself to see outside of yourself -- which is exactly what Hiawatha's collection allows people to do. The paintings intentionally have no faces so people can see themselves and feel the love.