Art As Fugitive Practice

fugitivity = the artful escape of objectification


Fugitive Slave Act = part of the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act was passed by Congress on September 18, 1850 and required citizens to return runaway slaves to their owners, even if they were in a free state. The act also made the federal government responsible for finding, returning, and trying escaped slaves, which was arguably the inception of policing in the U.S.

Scipio Moorhead, Phillis Wheatley, 1773.











Kerry James Marshall, Scipio Moorehead, Portrait of Himself, 1776, 2007.











"The Slave That Reads is the First to Run Away"

In 1791, enslaved workers in Saint Domingue (Haiti) took up arms and revolted against the plater class. Many of the overthrown white enslavers relocated to the U.S. and resumed their activities while lobbying for tyrannical controls over the Black population.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Study of a Black Man, 1808.











Phillis Wheatley, to Maecenas, 1773.
  • Wheatley's use of Classical imagery delivers "subversive" messages to her educated, majority white audience.
    • Argues for the freedom of herself and other enslaved people
  • An adviser to Octavian, Maecenas supported young poets such as Virgil believing that literature served a higher good, particularly to the state.
  • Demonstrates her extensive knowledge of Latin and Greek works with reference to Terence, a Roman African playwright who was brought to Rome as an enslaved person, but freed once his talents writing were realized.
Meredith Bergmann, Phillis Wheatley portrayed as part of the Boston Women's Memorial, 2003.









Like Ingres's Grande Odalisque in Europe, Hiram Powers's The Greek Slave evokes Chardin's universally recognized Georgian beauties and Blumenbach's "beautiful skull," specifically "demonstrat[ing] Orientalist whiteness in its material, the white Italian marble so critical to notions of Greek beauty." Powers' sculpture would tour the U.S. and become the most popular sculpture in nineteenth-century America (Painter, 27).
Hiram Powers, The Greek Slave, 1846.

Jean Augsute Dominique Ingres, Grande Odalisque, 1814.











"For nineteenth-century positivists, photography doubly fulfilled the Enlightenment dream of a universal language: the universal mimetic language of the camera yielded up a much higher, cerebral truth, a truth that could be uttered in the universal abstract language of mathematics. For this promised more than a wealth of detail; it promised to reduce nature to its geometrical essence. Presumably then, the archive could provide a standard physiognomic gauge of the criminal, could assign each criminal body a relative and quantitative position within a larger ensemble." - Allan Sekula in "The Body and the Archive"

20th Century California Inmantes











Violent Criminals Composite
Criminal Profile, 1914
Francis Galton, Violent Criminals Compositie, 1885.











eugenics = Developed largely by Sir Francis Galton, the study of how to arrange reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable characteristics regarded as desirable
The Jewish Type
Henry Pickering Bowditch, Twelve Boston Physicians and Their Composite Portrait,  c. 1894.
Francis Galton, The Jewish Type, 1883.











According to Paul Gilroy, long before ‘‘scientific racism gained its intellectual grip,’’ Hegel ‘‘denied blacks the ability to appreciate the necessary mystery involved in the creation of truly symbolic art’’ (Collins, 8).
Nadar, Maria, 1856 - 1859.












Nona Faustine, From Her Body Sprang Their Greatest Wealth, 2016. Wall Street, New York.

Nona Faustine, Over My Dead Body, 2013. Tweed Courthouse, New York.











Nona Faustine, They Tagged the Land with Trophies and Institutions from Their Rapes and Conquests, 2013

Nona Faustine, Isabelle Leferts House, 2016