Manifest

Wendel A. White

MANIFEST was featured in our recent issue on southern Things (vol. 23, no. 3). Join Wendel White at an exhibit opening & artist's talk on February 21st, 6:00–8:00 PM, at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

The Manifest portfolio is an ongoing project, a portfolio of nearly one hundred photographs of African American material culture held in public and private collections throughout the United States. These repositories have accumulated diaries, receipts for the purchase of humans, hair, a drum, a door, photographs, figurines, and other artifacts—some with great historical significance, some the commonplace, quotidian material of black life.

This project is concerned with the physical remnants of the American concept and representation of race. The histories of slavery, abolition, the U.S. Civil War, segregation, oppression, accomplishment, and agency are among the narratives that emerge in these photographs.

 

Door Knob, Maye St. Julien, Eatonville Historic Preservation, Eatonville, Florida, 2012.
Spoon, Harriet Tubman House, Auburn, New York, 2009.
Iron, Great Plain Black History Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, 2011.

I am increasingly interested in the residual power of the past to inhabit 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.

Various projects have occupied my attention during the past two decades; in retrospect, each has been part of a singular effort to seek out the ghosts and resonant memories of the material world. I am drawn to the stories “dwelling within” a spoon, a cowbell, a book, a postcard, or a partially burned document.

 

FBI Files on Malcolm X, Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, Nebraska, 2011.
Poster of Angela Davis, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C., 2016.
Drum, Dan Desdunes Band, Great Plains Black History Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, 2011.
Cab Calloway Home Movies: Haiti, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C., 2016.
Radio Raheem's boombox from the movie Do the Right Thing, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C., 2016.
Zora Neale Hurston Sketch Book, Smathers Library Special Collections, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 2012.
James Baldwin Inkwell, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, D.C., 2016.
Wendel A. White was born in Newark, New Jersey and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. He earned a BFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York and an MFA in photography from the University of Texas at Austin. His work has received various awards, including fellowships and grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the New Jersey State Council for the Arts, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and a New Works Photography Fellowship from En Foco Inc. His work is represented in museum and corporate collections across the nation.
View more of MANIFEST in our issue on southern Things, and on view at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Header image: Lunch Box, Larkin Franklin Sr., Eatonville Historic Preservation, Eatonville, Florida, 2012.

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