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Damballah Dolphus Smith Woodblock Figurative Print

Damballah Dolphus Smith (1943-1992)

“Hopefully my art, whether painting, drawing, or textile, will transport the viewer back in time to gather sensory awareness of the rich and great culture of my people.  It should further yield an alliance with our ancient past and an assurance of our infinite future.”

The artist, quoted in Black Artists on Art, Lewis/Waddy, Volume 1, revised ed., p. 101.

Smith had remarkable skill as an artist at a very young age.  He studied at the Art Students League, New York and the Philadelphia College of Art.  He had solo exhibitions of his work at Hinkley-Brohel Gallery, Peggy Fingerate Goldstein Gallery, and Blackman’s Art Gallery.  His work was included in Afro-American Artists, 1800-1969, a very important exhibition held at the Philadelphia Civic Center in 1969.

In 1992, Smith designed a poster for the American Red Cross for their HIV/AIDS program.  The image depicted a male figure hugging a smaller image of himself, and was accompanied by an Ethiopian proverb:  “He who conceals his disease cannot expect to be cured”.  Smith died of complications due to AIDS the same year.

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