Passage on the Underground Railroad

  January 29 - March 22, 2012

Public Programs

4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Artist's Talk: Stephen Marc

The Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery presents Passage on the Underground Railroad, artwork by Stephen Marc, organized by the University at Buffalo Art Galleries, Buffalo, New York, and curated by Sandra H. Olsen.

Stephen Marc's fascinating photographs and digital montages explore the history of freedom seekers on the Underground Railroad. With this body of work, Marc combines contemporary images with historic documents and artifacts to create richly-layered objects that bring the past palpably into the present. For seven years the artist photographed the routes traveled by fugitive slaves in their search for freedom, documenting and interpreting his research along the way. In Passage on the Underground Railroad, Marc shares the results of these explorations through eighty-seven thought- provoking, unconventional, and haunting digital images.

Marc uses two types of photographic composites to reveal the history of the Underground Railroad (UGRR): multiple photographs that describe UGRR sites and metaphorical montages that address the larger horror of slavery. Each UGRR site has a story, so individual sites are portrayed inside and out, using several photographs in combination to create visual tours. The companion montages evocatively interpret the South's "peculiar institution" from which slaves were fleeing. These multilayered narratives weave together elements from the landscape of slavery—plantation structures, crop fields, waterways, tools of bondage and agriculture, merchant tokens and bank note currency, newspaper articles, and advertisements—along with UGRR site details, antislavery materials, and contemporary cultural references.

The presentation of this exhibition is supported by an arts program grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support comes from the Friends of the Library & Gallery, the Libby Kuhn Foundation and individual contributions. For this exhibition and publication, Stephen Marc has received ongoing support from Olympus Imaging America, Inc., as well as from the National Park Service as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program.