Hidden Messages will bring to light the hidden codes used to convey messages to those seeking freedom and the great struggle it took to escape a life of slavery.
Ever since I chaperoned my child’s grade school class on a fieldtrip designed to experience what it was like to be a freedom seeker during the time of slavery, I have had a keen interest in the Underground Railroad and the plight of Freedom Seekers.
My interest was boosted in recent years while researching my own family ancestry and having my genetic makeup reveal that I am two percent Sub-Saharan African. Sadly, my ancestry tracing also revealed that in the 1850’s, a distant relative of mine had owned a plantation in Louisiana with slaves and as well as black workers who were not slaves.
During my research of the Underground Railroad, I found interesting theories about secret codes having been hidden in the designs of quilts that had been hung on the porch railings and cloths lines of those willing to help the Freedom Seekers find refuge and safe passage. These same codes and markings were also said to have been placed along the hundreds of miles of trails used for safe passage by using twigs and branches, carving images into the trees, and recreated using small stones and pebbles. The theories have never been officially proven as it was far too dangerous to keep records of such matters. If caught helping an escaped slave you could face being beaten, imprisoned, or even executed by hanging.
I have recreated these secret codes in the form of several individual acrylic paintings of the quilting patterns that were said to be used. These squares are aligned surrounding two intricate paintings of two prominent individuals who helped others to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Together they form one large, body of work that represent a traditional quilt.
On the table below the painting, you will find a cipher of each of the squares hidden meaning and an old railroad lantern used to help those traveling in the cover of night and as a signal as to whether it was safe to stop at known safe havens.
Although the original coded quilts were created using bright colored material cut and sewn together into these intricate patterns, I chose the monochromatic color scheme of black and white as it represents my belief that this is fact, not fiction. I find it very clear that these images were indeed used to help in the quest to bring thousands of people safely to freedom.
"Hidden Messages will bring to light the hidden codes used to convey messages to those seeking freedom, and its images a reminder of the great struggle it took to escape a life of slavery."
Ideation sketches, Inspiration photos, and progress pictures