Arnika Dawkins Gallery is pleased to present We Have Made These Lands What They Are, a solo exhibition featuring work by Keris Salmon during Black History Month. We Have Made These Lands What They Are include eighteen haunting images collected in a portfolio consisting of artifacts captured on southern antebellum plantations. A noted journalist, storyteller and artist, Salmon uses her artistic instinct to create an alternate reality regarding a troubling time in American history. The work explores family histories and their complex layers of relationships, unveiling the many significant links between black peoples’ past and present. In We Have Made These Lands What They Are, Salmon examines her connection to her own past, her partnership with her husband and his ancestors’ ownership of slaves.
"I have spent the past two years documenting ante-bellum southern plantations and slave dwellings through text and image. As a journalist, I am drawn to storytelling through words and as a visual artist I respect the way an image can bring a text alive. As a filmmaker, I'm refreshing the documentary form working instead with still imagery. And as an African-American, I aim in my process to explore the many significant links between my peoples' past and present."
Through extensive research in six states Salmon uncovered ledgers, diary entries, accounting logs and slave auction records to compile a narrative of the American slave economy. Collecting the language and history of the U.S. slave economy in We Have Made These Lands What They Are, she examines a variety of voices that come together to form a "solemn chorus to the dirge of American slavery" creating the complexity of nuanced understanding of the institution that still defines us. Salmon asserts that matters were not so 'black and white'; recounting that one 'slave owner felt true love and compassion for her slaves', some former slaves wanted to return to their plantations after abolition and that many former enslaved Africans felt 'love for their ladies of the house; others wanted to kill them". This dichotomy creates an interesting perspective, soliciting deep responses in those that view the work. Salmon's storytelling evokes an emotional response. Through photography and letterpress her viewers are afforded the opportunity to reflect on this dark time in American history and to be visually stimulated.