Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
Despite its geographic location, New Orleans isn’t “really” the South, in the same sense that Miami isn’t “really” like the rest of Florida or Manhattan is “really” just an island off the coast of America. It is sufficiently Southern, however, that when I moved here over a decade ago from New York I heard at least three people over the course of a month refer to the Civil War as “the War of Northern Aggression” — including my then boyfriend (now husband). Of course, he was being facetious. Then I met his family. They were absolutely serious.
The point is that in many ways, the Civil War remains somehow more immediate in the collective consciousness of the South to a greater degree than it did where I came from, despite its determinative effect on American identity as a whole. It’s something I kept thinking about while visiting a recent show at the Good Children Gallery, a collectively-organized artist-run space that has established itself as one of the most vital exhibition spaces in New Orleans.
Curated by Sophie Lvoff (no mean artist herself), “Grant v. Lee” featured the work of fourteen artists, both from New Orleans and further afield, who attempted to engage the conflict in question through a wide assortment of media and theoretical approaches. Far from being a mere exercise in nostalgia, the exhibition presented many of the artists with the opportunity to, in Lyoff”s words, “gently and subtly evoke the times and culture of the Civil War while bringing up significant questions about raceand nationalism that we continue to ask today.”
Indeed, the works which were most successful in “Grant v. Lee” were the ones which addressed the conflict and its legacy most obliquely. Agustina Woodgate‘s floor covering, constructed from the discarded skins of stuffed animals, brought to mind traditional Southern and Victorian-era handicrafts and reminded the viewer of the particular hardships and losses faced by women left at home while their husbands, brothers, and sons were off killing each other. Likewise, Katherine Wolkoff‘s photograph of a grassy landscape in which the viewer can barely detect the recently departed presence of a (living? dead?) body served as a kind of gentler but no less chilling coda to Civil War photographers Mathew Brady and Timothy O’Sullivan‘s images of bloated corpses strewn across an empty battlefield. And Paul Mpagi Sepuya‘s excerpts from a series of works depicting the rural Louisiana homes and surrounding landscapes of members of his extended family gently but powerfully underlined some of the far-reaching effects the war was to have on issues of race and class in the American South.
Not all works in the show were quite as subtle, or as successful; I’m still trying to decide whether Nina Schwanse‘s shrill “Civil Realness”, in which the artist double cast herself as two drag queens taking on the personas of Lee and Grant, was a brilliant transposition of the conflict to the reality show era or just plain annoying (though something tells me it would’ve at least been more entertaining had Schwanse cast actual drag queens in the roles). Watch it and judge for yourself.
Editor’s Note: This endorsement is part of a special edition that Hyperallergic published on the ongoing legal case to return the photos of Renty and Delia Taylor to their descendants. * * * Your Honour — On April 11, 2018, The New York Times published a report on the differential outcomes for maternal and infant…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…