Photo Credit: Tim Okamura's painting, Sun Rise on U Street, 2013
Photo Credit: Tim Okamura’s painting, Sun Rise on U Street, 2013

Happy Creativity Thursday!

Today, I am excited to announce that Smith Center for Healing and the Arts is hosting an opening reception for the D.C. debut of Brooklyn-based painter Tim Okamura’s new portrait collection, Depicted/Connected on Friday, September 27, from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U Street, N.W. (three blocks from the U Street/Cardozo Metro Station on the Green Line).

Photo Credit: Tim Okamura
Photo Credit: Tim Okamura

Depicted/Connected features 11 culturally diverse women who were primarily born and raised in the D.C. area. They are depicted through Tim’s self-constructed lens which captures how they have experienced the evolution of D.C. as a city. Through the paintings, he says, “I have sought to celebrate these women as individuals, connected to their environment, but also to discover through them metaphors for greater aspects of the human condition – connected to all of us.” If you are in D.C. on September 27, please plan to attend this amazing event. See you in September!

SIDE NOTE: Just in case you couldn’t tell who is featured in the painting above, I’ll let you in on a secret. It’s me. Tim included a door from Republic Gardens, a club I used to hang out in during the 1990s and early 2000s.

Ananda Leeke at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Ananda Leeke at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Photo Credit:
Photo Credit:

The club has a rich history too. It first opened in the 1920s when owner W.G. Tindel converted a brick rowhouse (1355 U Street, N.W.) into a restaurant with a backyard summer garden on U Street, the heart of D.C.’s African American culture and life (the reason I moved to the neighborhood 23 years ago). During the next 30 years, it became a major destination for fans of live jazz. Two of my favorite jazz musicians Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker performed there.

When I look at the sun-like gold window on the red door in the painting, I am reminded of Amaterasu, the Japanese sun  goddess. She is associated with the colors red, gold, and yellow. She represents royal power and returning life and joy after dark times, as the sun becomes stronger and warmer after the winter solstice.

Tim Okamura and amazing ladies at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Tim Okamura and amazing ladies at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery


I met Tim on June 9, during his photo shoot for Depicted/Connected at the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery. Smith Center invited me and five amazing women to participate in the photo shoot. The first thing I noticed about him was his easy-going spirit, positive energy, and kind smile. He was able to stay focused and have fun too.

Tim Okamura and Ananda Leeke at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Tim Okamura and Ananda Leeke at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery

After the photo shoot, I went home and Googled Tim to learn more about his work. When I visited his Facebook page and saw his painting, “Les Nubians Combat Pour L’Amour” and “Courage 3.0,” I became an instant fan. I also listened to his 2011 interview on NPR’s Tell Me More with journalist Michel Martin. During the interview, he discussed his passion for hip hop, his hip hop radio show in Canada, and his ”Bronx Brooklyn Queens” series of paintings that feature African-American women of New York City. I Googled the series and fell in love with each painting. What a powerful body of work!

More About Tim (from his official bio):
He earned a B.F.A. with Distinction at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, Canada before moving to New York City to attend the School of Visual Arts in 1991.  After graduating with an M.F.A. in 1993, he relocated to Brooklyn, New York, where he continues to live and work. His artwork has been exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery in London, England; galleries throughout the U.S. and Canada; and he was short-listed by the Royal Surveyor of the Queen’s Picture Collection for a commissioned portrait of the Queen of England.  His work is included in the permanent collection of the Toronto Congress Center, Standard Chartered Bank, and the Davis Museum in Massachusetts, as well as the private collections of  celebrity clients such as John Mellencamp, Uma Thurman, and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. He is represented by Lyons Wier Gallery in New York, and Douglas Udell Gallery in Canada. To learn more about Tim and his work, LIKE him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


    1. Thanks Laurel for reading the blog. Tim Okamura is AMAZING. You should LIKE his Facebook page to see more of his fabulous work. I wish you could come see the show too. I promise to take plenty of photos of the art work. I will do a post about the show in October. So look out for it.

  1. Hey, Madelyn, it’s Madeline (from the gallery)! I’m so glad to have found your blog and this great background story about Tim’s painting. Would you mind if I shared a link to it on the gallery’s Pinterest page? Hope to see you soon!

    All the best,

    – M

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