Manifest by Wendel White Opening at New Jersey State Museum

Manifest portfolio opens January 25, 2015 at the NJ State Museum – 1/25/15 


The images in Manifest reflect the unique and overlapping histories of slavery, abolitionism and spiritualism. These intimate yet monumental images spatially blur the objects, defying easy read or interpretation, veiling and unveiling the residues of slavery and segregation.

"In Manifest, Wendel White make historical objects intimate and singular. These objects - oxidized spoon, an open diary, a slave bill of sale, and perhaps above all, a lock of Frederick Douglass's hair -- are all embodied, had once touched flesh, been manipulated by human hands, had lived in the world before they were packed up into the archive." - Leigh Raiford


Wendel White
, Distinguished Professor of Art at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, has exhibited and published widely. Among other honors, he is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an En Foco New Works Photography Fellowship, two fellowships from the New Jersey Council on the Arts, and a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. His work is represented broadly in museums and corporate collections across the country.

The photographs in this portfolio are made with a large format, film-based camera, placed very close to the subject, and printed on paper with an inkjet printer. The images are available as prints in two sizes.      These photographs are representations of objects, documents, photographs, and books stored in cases and file cabinets as treasured historical artifacts. The outcome of this effort is to transform the usually small and often fragile remnants of the struggle for freedom and equality into images larger in scale than the original subjects. The various collections include vernacular documents such as a payment receipt for a bank loan, long held objects of special importance in the history of places such as Auburn, NY, Eatonville, Fl or Omaha, NE and various official materials that recall the transformations of communities over time.      The Manifest project is an effort to seek out objects in public/private collections that represent the material remains of slavery, abolition, segregation, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Albion Tourgee, Zora Neale Hurston, Harlem, the U.S. Civil War, and the Civil Rights Era to name a few of the narratives that inspired these photographs.      I am increasingly interested in the residual power of the material remains of the past. The ability of objects to transcend lives, centuries, and millennia, offers a remarkable mechanism for folding time, bringing the past and the present into a shared space that is uniquely suited to artistic exploration. While the artifacts are remarkable as visual evidence of lives and events, I also intend the viewer to consider this informal catalog as a survey of the impulse and motivation to preserve history and memory.      The various projects that have occupied my attention during the past two decades are, in retrospect, part of a singular effort to seek out the ghosts and resonant memories expressed in various aspects of the material world. I am drawn to the stories “dwelling within” a spoon, a cowbell, a book, a photograph, or a partially burned document. All are potential agents of vision.

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7 Steps to Freedom: Finding the Underground Railroad in Salem County


Although helping slaves escape bondage was illegal, an extensive network of African Americans and whites worked on the Underground Railroad to bring people into freedom. Southern New Jersey was an important node, as it bordered slave states like Delaware, but was, by the early 19th century, a free state. A number of Underground Railroad sites in southern New Jersey remain, particularly in Salem County, where Quaker residents were actively involved. In this episode of Humanities Connection, James Turk, Director of Cultural Affairs and Tourism Information Services of the Salem County Cultural and Heritage Commission and Wendel White, professor of photography at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, discuss the history of the Underground Railroad in Salem County. Both are involved in “Seven Steps to Freedom,” a project that seeks to bring the history of the Underground Railroad to life through an audio tour of seven sites in Salem County, a photography exhibition and video podcasts. Based on historical records, the audio tour features the words of slaves risking their lives to get to freedom as well as the courageous people who aided them in their journey.

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