A traveling exhibit merging currency and art, “Confederate Currency:
The Color of Money,” opened April 6 at the National Underground
Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. The center describes the
exhibit as an investigation of the significance of slavery in the
economy of the South.
Coinage during World War I
Propaganda and influence were a big part of World War I, and
medals and coins were a prime vehicle to convey those messages.
Steve Roach covers the topic in our May 7 cover feature.
South Carolina artist John W. Jones researched over 126 images of
enslaved Africans on Confederate and obsolete Southern state currency
and transformed them into colorful acrylic works of art.
Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Byron McCauley says in a review
of the exhibit that the color and medium used make the currency come
to life, but with a caveat: It is life as seen through the eyes of the
people who controlled the money, and who used free labor for the
preservation and accumulation of their own wealth. For example, “Slave
moms and babies looking happy in the field. Slave males look healthy
and jubilant in nice shirts, even as they toil behind mules or under
the weight of a cotton sack. An overseer with a whip sits on his
horse, surveying the workers on another note.”
Underlying his work, Jones says, is that “in these paintings,
history informs art, which in turn artfully reveals more history.” The
exhibit has traveled to the Avery Research Center Museum, the African
American Museum and Library at Oakland, Louisiana State University,
Schumacher Gallery, and the Augusta Museum of History, among others.
Jones was presented with the U.S. Consul General’s Award for
Cultural Diplomacy by the Academia delle Belle Arti of Brera in Italy
in April 2017.
More information about the display’s appearance in Cincinatti is here.
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