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The woman’s conflicting emotions – the “spiteful impossibilities” of her life as a slave countered by fleeting dreams and the promises she makes of a better life to her unborn child – are expressed not only by the torn remnants of lyrical writing but also by the stunning symbolic visual imagery.

Over a background of painterly brushwork, Wilson has assembled allegorical materials such as chains, balls of cotton and gold coins, which tell the tale of her enslavement and impending sale. The golden trim and embroidery suggest the upper-class gentry who condoned and promoted the institution of slavery. The threads that crisscross the book represent the narrative of her life, punctuated at the bottom by a small embroidered figure carrying a knapsack, perhaps representing another slave who has managed to escape or possibly a vision of her own imagined flight.

And yet, the pages are dominated by collaged butterflies and flowers. Her dream, as fragile and beautiful as these ethereal

symbols, is that she and her unborn child will one day find freedom and a “life fit to live.”

The words “stocks” and “bonds” each have dual meanings: the equity and debt instruments used to finance corporations and municipalities as well as instruments of punishment and physical restraint. Maureen Cummins incorporates all of these meanings in her book, Stocks and Bonds. Using the ledger pages and stock tickets from the G.H. Robinson Company, an early 20th century New York stock brokerage firm, as background, Cummins superimposes images of torture to display its gruesome history and the connection between profit and pain.

The image displayed here is of a transatlantic slave ship, where “slaves were packed as tightly as possible below” to account for “wastage.” Human beings are treated like products; death and suicide are viewed as equivalent to the financial loss of cloth or sugar cane damaged in transit.

The parallels to American culture, both past and present, are striking. Marginalized and minority communities have historically been denied rights and opportunities, and even when laws are in place to protect their freedoms, lack of resources often leads to social and legal exclusion. The thematically linked artworks in this section address the difficult subjects of slavery, gender equality, race and the plight of military veterans. In approaches that range from the unflinching to the ironic, the artists make powerful statements about the ongoing imbalance of equality in our country.

Artist and poet Carletta Carrington Wilson has created a series of artists’ books, book of the bound, each of which tells the story of a life interrupted by some manifestation of the transatlantic slave trade. naked in the marketplace combines mixed-media collage and fragments of handwritten text to tell a poetic but intensely fraught story of a young, pregnant woman of color. The text reveals that she is on the auction block, about to be sold. She has been beaten, betrayed, and impregnated by the master. She has no protection under the law, a law that frees the white man from any legal responsibility. Thus, the baby will be born into slavery.

Homeric Hymn to Demeter
Glynnis Fawkes; translation by Gregory Nagy

Stocks and Bonds
Maureen Cummins

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