Before the Spirits are Swept Away

Before the Spirits are Swept Away: African American Historic Site Paintings, by Sherry Sanabria.

Page updated on Jul 15, 2020 at 11:11 AM

Before the Spirits are Swept Away:

African American Historic Site Paintings by Sherry Z. Sanabria 

I am drawn to the walls and spaces… [of buildings]… by the magic of light, the organization of architectural elements, and the perception that these spaces are filled with and colored by the spiritual remnants of the lives lived in them.  – Sherry Z. Sanabria (1938-2014)

Before the Spirits are Swept AwayBefore the Spirits are Swept Away: African American Historic Site Paintings By Sherry Zvares Sanabria  features Sherry Sanabria’s African American historic site paintings. The exhibit is made possible by the Sanabria family, who generously donated 23 of her paintings to the Alexandria Black History Museum. Sherry, who had a studio at the Torpedo Factory Arts Center,  passed away in 2014.  Her family has made it their mission to find homes for her paintings where they will be appreciated and preserved. This incredible donation permits museum staff to use the paintings to explore slavery, interpretation, and preservation of African American sites in Virginia. 

These paintings are part of Sanabria’s “Sites of Conscience” series, which has as its focus African American heritage, prisons, concentration camps, and mental hospitals. The Sites of Conscience series takes viewers to places of horror, places of pain and suffering, places we want to forget, but never should.

Robert Sanabria, Sherry’s husband, feels this series “… demonstrates the widespread practice of bondage in the American South and the determination of the enslaved to survive and maintain their connection with their creator. It is especially fortuitous to have these works together where they will be valued and available for the appreciation of generations to come….”

The Staff of the Alexandria Black History Museum are honored to be custodians of this beautiful series of paintings.

The Sherry Z. Sanabria Collection can now be viewed at Historic Alexandria Collections Online.