But it was also prescient. He’d created Emancipation Proclamation after applying for clemency. When the piece was finished, his legal team sent a photograph of the painting to White House counsel Neil Eggleston. Later, Washington learned that President Obama would be commuting his sentence in May 2016. That June, he moved out of prison and into a halfway house.
When documentarians Aveling and Mattison caught up with Washington to begin filming, he was staging his first solo show in Los Angeles and celebrating the occasion with family. But, Mattison noted, the artist is still feeling the injustices of his wrongful conviction; Washington is in the midst of trying to officially prove his innocence, and is angling for a settlement, as well. He’s also still required to report to a probation officer. “When people get their sentences commuted, they can’t just go back to life as usual,” Mattison said.
These days, Washington has to juggle the daily grind of paying rent and insurance, buying groceries, doing laundry, and changing car tires. He looks forward to having the time and headspace again to paint regularly.