Seeking Freedom in Past and Present: NKU Freedom Studies Student Artists

1. Enduring

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J.K. Long

2003, mixed media (photo)

Early in my youth I began developing a fascination with the Underground Railroad and slavery. Since then I have been unable to escape it. The legacy of the institution of slavery that still affects the world today is incorporated in my writing, my poetry, my paintings, and my everyday life.

My piece, entitled “Enduring”, was created in order to capture the viewer’s attention and to invite them to focus on just a few of the horrific experiences that enslaved Africans were forced to live (and die) through. In the piece the viewer is able to see an African, as she lived in her mother country, prior to her capture; however, the other images that surround this scene are a bit less inviting. I chose to use the rest of my canvas in order to show some of the more violent treatment that slaves had to endure, such as: being forced to wear chains, being hung, and being tied up as if they were animals.

I wanted the points of emphasis on my piece to be the bright, powerful colors that move about the work. Black, red, green, and yellow, all significant colors in the African culture, were used to emphasize the lineage, the pride, the loss, and the struggle of these people as a whole. Other themes supported by my color choice include: greed, bloodshed, money, pain, torture, and struggle.

In all of my artistic creations I choose to incorporate writing to further distinguish myself from other artists. As an artist I am aware of the cliché: “pictures are worth a thousand words”; however, I feel that some images can be better supported by the text that surrounds them. Therefore, with this piece I chose to cut out letters and words in order to create a collage effect that expresses how enslaved people might have possibly viewed the world around them. The words that were chosen explain slavery as it relates to the environment in which they lived, the people that affected them, and the sentiments that they felt as enslaved persons.

Lastly, the metal that is intertwined throughout the piece is meant to invite the viewer to contemplate the imprisonment that enslaved people faced. The chains, the restriction, and the barriers that were a part of these people’s lives are all captured with the use of the wire that further serves to frame the work.

Enslaved people should never be forgotten and in order to ensure preservation of the struggle that they were unjustly served with, pieces such as mine should continue to be created. Although this institution has ended, we can still attest to the fact that the effects of slavery are still very alive and evident. By creating this image, I hope to persuade others that the struggle continues and still we endure.


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