With every stroke of Joseph Holston’s paintbrush, every choice of color, subject and even canvas size — he takes the viewer on a journey of slavery from somber darkness to the bright light of hope.

In Color of Freedom, Joseph Holston: Journey Along the Underground Railroad, Holston leads his audience through four movements that deepen our understanding of America’s Black enslaved people’s experience. Visitors to Washington County Museum of Fine Arts can see the artist’s thought-evoking exhibition from September 23, 2022, to January 14, 2023.

The exhibition features more than 50 paintings, etchings, and drawings by Maryland-born Holston, which were created to enhance viewers’ understanding of the condition of slavery, and the powerful instinct toward freedom.

Color in Freedom captures the essence of the enormous courage and perseverance required to both survive under and escape from slavery. This exhibition is one artist’s visual representation and expression of a range of human experiences and emotions within the framework of this period in American history.

A special Meet-the-Art Reception will be Sunday, September 25, 2022, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. The event is free and open to the public. To register, contact Donna Rastelli at 301-739-5727 or drastelli@wcmfa.org.


American artist Joseph Holston (b. April 6, 1946) is known for a body of work that highlights the African American experience through his use of vivid colors exaggerated and simplified forms, powerful lines, and rhythmic compositions.

With a career that spans more than half a century, Holston expresses himself through a variety of media – oil painting, etching, silkscreen and collage.

Holston grew up in a rural Black community outside of Chevy Chase, Maryland, before moving in 1960 to Washington, D.C. There, Holston was accepted into the commercial art program at Chamberlain Vocational High School.

From 1964 to 1970, Holston worked as a commercial artist and illustrator and studied with portraitist Marcos Blahove (1928-2012). In 1971, he studied in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with portraitist, landscape and still-life painter Richard Vernon Goetz (1915-1991). Months later, Holston resigned from his job in Washington, D.C., and began a full-time career in painting.

Today, his widely acclaimed work is included in private and public collections such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum; The Phillips Collection; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the U. S. Federal Reserve Fine Art Collection; the Library of Congress Fine Print Collection; the Yale University Art Gallery; the DuSable Museum of African American History; the Butler Institute of American Art; the Georgia Museum of Art; the Museum of Art of the Rhode Island School of Design; the Amarillo Museum of Art; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York; the University of Maryland University College; the David C. Driskell Center at the University of Maryland; the Lyndon B. Johnson Library at the University of Texas; Howard University, and the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, where his canvas Jazz at Tacoma Station is a visitor favorite.

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