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Home-Grown Talent

D.C. Artist Pads Résumé With Solo Exhibit at Phish Tea Café

If developing a career path is any evidence, native Washingtonian Afrika Midnight Asha Abney is a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it.

“At age 4 I told my parents that I wanted to be an artist,” Abney said, recalling a discussion 25 years in the past. “It came naturally to me.”

Now, all these years later, Abney has built quite an impressive résumé, including her time studying at the Corcoran School of the Arts, where she received her bachelor’s in fine art. She has also received much recognition for her art, particularly from the D.C. Commission on the Arts, including numerous grants and a nomination for Outstanding Emerging Artist in 2001. Abney’s works have been published, commissioned and on display in both solo and group exhibitions.

“I paint what comes naturally to me in my head,” Abney said as she described the source of her inspiration. Since Abney is also a dancer and a poet, she sees “a lot of dance activities in [her paintings] and as I speak [about them] the poetry comes into play. In explaining you become very poetic, you have to be creative in explaining the work.”

Phish Tea Café, 1335 H St. NE, is giving Abney an opportunity to show off her creativity. Abney will have a solo exhibition, “Images of Life,” at the café beginning Sunday with an

opening reception from 3 to 5 p.m. The exhibition will be on display until Sept. 3 and all 24 pieces will be available for purchase. [IMGCAP(1)]

“I had not seen her art nor was I familiar with it, but I was impressed with what she said and the way she said it,” said Theresa Bragg, public relations manager for Phish Tea. “She also said she would have an active part in promoting the exhibit there, so we welcomed her with open arms.”

Abney first initiated contact with those at Phish Tea through a letter, and the details were worked out from there. While she now lives in the Columbia Heights area, Abney said she grew up elsewhere in Northeast D.C. and has known for the past year that she wanted to have an exhibition at Phish Tea.

“I was determined,” Abney said about getting her work shown at the café. “I wanted to expand my venues.”

Abney said she had to choose her 24 exhibit choices from more than 50 paintings, which wasn’t an easy task. One of the pieces she decided to include, “Earth, Wind and Fire,” is one that “people respond to the strongest,” Abney said.

The abstract painting on canvas, inspired by the musical group of the same name, “focuses on the blend of colors, which include red, yellow, blue and green. Red representing fire and power. Yellow representing energy of source of life. Blue representing water, emotions and feeling through the wind by releasing suffering, pain, anger or depression. And green representing the land and earth.”

While Abney creates her abstract prints on both paper and canvas, she said she prefers to work with canvas.

As a token of appreciation for allowing her to showcase her artwork, Abney donated one of her pieces, “Kuumba Suras/Creative Figures,” to Phish Tea for permanent display. Abney said the painting “is an abstract print focused on shape, concept, values, color and definition.”

Since the café’s opening in April 2004, Bragg said Phish Tea has played host to a number of artist exhibitions. Abney is the fourth artist within the past three months to show her work at the café.

“We will continue to do it for several reasons,” Bragg said. “The feedback from the artists is that it’s been beneficial in that it gives them exposure. It not only gives the artist exposure but gives the café exposure as well.”

Abney will hold an artist talk from 5 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the café, where she will answer questions and talk about the creation of her pieces and what inspired her. For more information on the exhibition, visit

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