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Wendel White


Fall, 2017

In Manifest, Wendel White makes historical objects intimate and singular. These objects¬—an 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.

(Raiford, Memory Manifest)

wendel white 1
Illustration: T.S. Abe

Manifest is an ongoing project to produce photographs of objects, documents, photographs, books, and other objects of African American material culture contained within public and private collections throughout the U.S. These repositories encompass elements such as diaries, slave collars, human hair, a drum, souvenirs, and other objects, some with great significance and others simply quotidian representations of daily life from the history of the black community.

“This project is concerned with the entities and social constructions of the American concept and representation of race. The histories of slavery, abolition, the U.S. Civil War, segregation, the Civil Rights Era, and Black Lives Matter are a few of the narratives that emerge in these photographs.

I am increasingly interested in the residual power of the past to inhabit these material remains. The ability of objects to transcend lives, centuries, and millennia, suggests 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 reliquary as a survey of the impulse and motivation to preserve history and memory.

Several projects have occupied my attention during the past two decades, which, in retrospect, are part of a broader effort to seek out the definitions of race in the sanctified preservation of the archive. I am drawn to the stories that dwell within these objects.

The photographs are made with a 4”x5” view camera using film or digital capture. The prints are pigment-based inkjet.”

-Wendel A. White

White's Work