Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography

Wigs (Portfolio)

Lorna Simpson. Wigs (Portfolio). 1994

Portfolio of twenty-one lithographs on felt, with seventeen lithographed felt text panels, overall: 6' x 13' 6" (182.9 x 411.5 cm). Purchased with funds given by Agnes Gund, Howard B. Johnson, and Emily Fisher Landau. © 2018 Lorna Simpson

The text panels that appear in between the wigs speak about historical moments in which one's appearance becomes an important challenge. One particular panel discusses a man in craft and his wife who, as enslaved Africans in the South, they decide to escape to the North. His wife, is very light skinned, and he, her husband, is very dark skinned. They decide that she is going to play the part of an elderly white slave owner, and that he will be her servant/slave, and that's how they make their escape. They run into trouble as they approach New York because it is demanded of her to read a particular document, which she can not read. But she, from being enslaved all that time, has picked up on all the gestures and attitudes of the slave owner, so "how dare they ask her in this state of condition of being very, very sick, to read a document, when she is on her deathbed." She would mimic the kind of arrogant mannerisms that she had watched for many years of her own slave masters and that actually helped their escape.

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