Passage on the Underground Railroad

Woman walking toward the Atlantic Ocean with period illustrations from 1850 and 1875, 2006, digital photomontage.

January 29 – March 22, 2012

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.

Riverboat scene overlooking the Mississippi River, 2006, digital photomontage.

Public Program

4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Passage on the Underground Railroad and the Black Experience within American History

Stephen Marc’s Humanities Forum presentation will place the Underground Railroad composite images into the context of his other bodies of work thereby giving his interpretations of history while focusing on the African American experience.

Sponsored by the Humanities Forum of the Dresher Center for the Humanities and the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery

Stephen Marc is Professor of Art in the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts, Arizona State University.