Artist illustrates history through Confederate currency
ATHENS, Ohio (Feb. 1, 2007) -- While Confederate money may be a thing of the past, John W. Jones' depictions of these unique bills are enlightening viewers today at Ohio University's Multicultural Center Art Gallery on the second floor of the Baker University Center.
The exhibit at Ohio University, "Confederate Currency: The Color of Money," illustrates 40 small engravings of slave images found on old Confederate money. Jones has made these images larger and more colorful, without any alterations to the original designs, by using acrylics on canvas. Each of the replicas is placed next to the original framed engraving as a powerful commentary on the life and times of enslaved Africans in America.
Jones' work speaks to the issues of economic exploitation and the history of slavery in the United States. His artistic creations tell a story to all viewers.
"We have had a tremendous response to this particular exhibition," said Winsome Chunnu, assistant director of the Multicultural Center.
Jones' many images include slaves working in fields, factories and interacting with their families. They also comment on slaves as a symbol of profit.
Jones has researched more than 126 images of slavery depicted on Southern currency, while only 40 are currently being displayed on campus.
The birth of this artistic series began six years ago when Jones was asked to enlarge a Confederate bill at a blueprint company in Charleston, S.C. After enlarging the bill, Jones became interested in the images he saw and the portrayals of slaves and slavery in the Old South.
"This exhibition exposes the lack of historical knowledge we have about slavery," Chunnu said. "Descendants of slavery are finding out for the first time just how much the South profited from slavery."
The slave vignettes, as Jones calls them, communicate the strong sense of determination to overcome a world of slavery and oppression through their music, religion, art, storytelling, architecture, agriculture and culinary specialties. His pieces of art tell a story, a story of oppression as well as one of economics.
The Columbia, S.C., native will have his exhibit on display at the Multicultural Center Art Gallery in Baker until Saturday, Feb. 17. Jones will host a coffee hour at the gallery from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 10. From 3 to 4 p.m., he will host a discussion about his exhibition. Both events are free and open to the public.
The "Confederate Currency: The Color of Money," exhibition has been featured by The New York Times, Time magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, CNN and National Public Radio.
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