"The Evidence of Things Not Seen is a series of 104 individually painted rectangular and oval portraits. This body of work honors and commemorates the protesters arrested during and following the historic 1955-1956 Montgomery Bus Boycotts. The source images for these portraits are original mug shots that were taken upon each protesters’ arrest. The muted color palette and cropping of the original image consistently adopted in these portraits imparts an artful elegance to what might otherwise be considered perfunctory photographic records of “criminals.” The subtle color highlights the calm resolve and staid spirit of each sitter, as well as the disciplined nature of their civil disobedience. Proudly clad in their “Sunday best,” these subjects further distinguish themselves from the context of traditional criminal mug shots through their tasteful attire, composed postures and determined gazes. Familiar faces, such as Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., are amongst the many not remembered (and yet numbered) who join the ranks of those acknowledged in history as their gazes meet those of the viewer, their iconic expressions confirming the collective impact of all of these individuals. These visually arresting portraits comprise two layers: an oil-on-linen painting based on the original mug shot and a photographic image printed on sheer silk. The resulting spectral surface recalls oft-forgotten history, as the viewer strains to determine how the diluted prisoners’ arrest records, omitted on the painted layer, persist as faint shadows printed onto the silk. Each portrait is further distanced from its original “criminal” context, locked within a simple, double white wooden frame that announces this work’s dialogue between classical portraiture and documentary photographic evidence. Newly installed at the Carroll Mansion, an elegant nineteenth-century home whose stately federalist architecture communicates a sense of elevated status, the exhibition of the portraits in Baltimore establishes a new position of dignity and an occasion to honor its subjects. The Carroll Mansion was the part-time home of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the longest lived signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Sited within this context, the concept of being arrested, a gesture of criminality, assumes a more poetic and elegiac meaning as a tool of defiance and liberation. In addition to memorializing the protesters as individuals, the dense, salon-style hanging of these portraits at the Carroll can be read on a second, metaphorical level that recalls conventions for displaying family portraits above fireplaces and wrapping around crucial architectural spaces, such as the curving staircase wall in the mansion’s entryway. Thus situated, these individuals demand recognition as a cultural family that was historically displaced."



"Evenly Yoked." In Bearing Witness: Work by Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry, edited by Jennie Hirsh, 22-23.  Baltimore, MD: Maryland Institute College of Art, 2010.  

©Exhibition Development Seminar 2009-2010, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA: Baltimore, 2010) 


To view or download the entire exhibition catalogue from Bearing Witness: Work by Bradley McCallum & Jacqueline Tarry with descriptions of each work as well as a critical essay, please visit the Featured page.