fascinating and artistic look at an aspect of paper money not often
seen was the subject of an exhibit and lecture recently at Plattsburgh
State University just across the lake from us here in Burlington, Vt.
told by the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, “The Color of Money”
is the culmination of a years-long effort by South Carolina graphic
artist John W. Jones. More than a decade ago, as part of his normal
work, he one day had to enlarge a piece of obsolete paper currency for
a client. Only upon doing so did he realize that he was working on an
image of a slave picking cotton, and he was shocked that such a thing existed.
chance discovery set him off on a search for how many more such pieces
he could find and he is now past 150. Making use of his artistic
ability, Jones did more than find the notes. He took their engraved
vignettes and transformed them into a series of acrylic on canvas full
color paintings, by first precisely drawing each vignette on the
canvas and next applying layers of color.
Connect with Coin World:
started simply enough by searching eBay, but as word of his work
spread, Jones says, “People all over the country started sending notes
that I didn’t have already. It’s still an ongoing thing. Being an
artist, I can re-create these images in full color ... so people can
see what I was seeing.” Amazing to him is that many of the notes are
incongruously characterized by smiling workers and happy scenes.
has thus far done over 123 paintings. They have appeared in more than
400 magazines and newspapers, and some are part of the traveling
exhibition seen in Plattsburgh and in dozens of other places across
says: “My experience researching this project has shown me that the
most beautiful American Dream experience is the history of African
Americans from slavery to present day. Many African Americans are
ashamed of our slavery history, and many whites feel guilty about
American slave history. My hope is that the exhibition Confederate
Currency: The Color of Money will inspire discussions on the legacy of
slavery and somehow help to remove the shame African Americans feel
and remove the guilt whites feel when slavery is discussed.”
exhibition is online. A print exhibition catalog, Confederate
Currency: The Color of Money Depictions of Slavery in Confederate
and Southern States Currency, is also offered for $50. More
information is also available here.