UGG has always been an emotional brand because of how it makes you FEEL. This season, we celebrate this connection by telling the stories of inspiring human beings.
We are proud to partner with the Hammer Museum and the Huntington’s Made in L.A. 2020 – an acclaimed exhibition presenting the works of 30 Los Angeles-based artists. The list of exhibitors includes Fulton Leroy Washington, also known as MR. WASH. Wearing the Neumel Boot, this is his story in his words.
Introduce yourself and the space.
My name is Fulton Leroy Washington. We’re in the city of Compton inside my home/studio/office. This is where I sleep, fight for my innocence, and work on paintings to support that fight.
How do you FEEL these days and why?
See these days, I feel blessed – the days of the past and prayerfully the days of the future are full of blessings. I don’t look at what is; I look at what could be.
Both you and UGG share California roots. How has Los Angeles helped shape who you are?
Being here in the city of Compton and reflecting over the years of living in Los Angeles County and various parts from Watts to Gardena to Carson to now Compton, plays a big, significant role in my life. My roots take me into Watts; the civil rights movement. Everybody always voting at our house every year. As a child hearing political stories from your parents, being sheltered from the real, unbalanced life that this world brings, that Los Angeles brings, that whole accumulation of experiences puts me in a position where I see that change does need to come and that over 45 to 50 years of experiencing life here, a lot of things haven’t changed. That’s how I feel.
When and how did artmaking enter your life?
I think artmaking entered my life as a child, but I didn’t have much of a chance to experience it fully because I was just trying to economically survive. Being in prison and realizing I’m stuck, my attorney got me involved. She asked me to draw a person from the case after seeing me do these little sketches with a pencil. In federal prison, I got introduced and exposed to all paintings.
One of the main things that motivates a lot of the artwork you see now is that as I was telling my story, people saw my story, and it was hard. They supported me in my plight of innocence and to be free by sending money to the attorney. We are still in the same fight today, trying to get in court, trying to cover legal expenses now in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Describe your work and mediums of choice.
I really don’t have a medium of choice. I think I do them all. I find that most of my work is done in oils because it was the most difficult to me, mastering that challenge.
Where do you draw inspiration, and what motivates you to get up every day and create?
My drive and inspiration, the motivation that keeps me going from day to day, is spiritual. I feel honored to experience life in a more open and lucrative space and be able to have a close connection with my siblings, my children, and have a brighter look for the future. I’m motivated daily because now I’m allowed to fight for my innocence in a more direct way.
How do you FEEL when you draw and paint?
You got to get your head clear and get your math together. You start out picking your brush up and going in, and then you’re a little shaky. You back up and put it down because you don’t want to make a mistake. You drink a little coffee. Cracking your knuckles, you go in there and get it. It starts out pretty good, then soon you forget about all the physical activity. The eyes are working with the hands. You don’t have to think about sending a signal from the eye to the hand. They’re both in sync. They’re just working.
How does it FEEL to know your work resonates with viewers?
That’s the greatest, knowing that what I do resonates with others. It’s the greatest experience of joy and gratitude because our purpose through this human experience is to help one another. You need to dedicate your life to doing things that people need in their life. I understand that the value in life and the value of each other is sharing knowledge, skills, and whatever you have with the other. I only pray to God that he blessed me with whatever those spirits and souls are searching for.
How do you hope your work makes viewers FEEL?
I don’t know how my artwork is going to make each person with a different journey feel, but I’m quite sure that some of the images will influence something, especially when it comes to criminal justice reform. The suffering that goes on, even though I was strong enough to do it, a lot of people can’t make it. My artwork opens the door for people to start thinking, who are we really locking up?
Tell us about the work you’re exhibiting in the Hammer Museum’s Made in L.A. 2020.
They selected a series I call “Things We Cry For.” These are some of the joys and sorrows of prisoners that were federally incarcerated.
What’s the story behind the piece(s)?
My art tells the story of incarcerated people captured in the form of artwork and painting. Some wanted to tell the story of their life before they ever went to prison. I have a whole series about how some people can’t let go of the past – they want to hold onto and be acknowledges for the life that they had. Some people wanted to do the current; what’s going on. If you notice at all, my pictures always gaze somewhere between two different dimensions of time. In this human experience, there are only three things that we can talk about: the past, the present, and the future.
Lastly, how does it FEEL to exhibit alongside other Los Angeles-based artists?
I feel really, really blessed and honored to exhibit alongside the finest artists in the city. These are people that I didn’t know were traveling a similar journey as mine. We are two different sides of a big wall. I can’t see you and I can’t hear you. You can’t see me, but we’re still walking the same path trying to get there. I’m honored to be part of that.