untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad Series

Artist Details

Name: Stephen Marc
Birth: 1954
Nationality: American

Artwork Details

Date of Work: 2002
Medium: archival pigment inkjet print on paper
Dimensions: 18 x 52 inches
Credit: Museum purchase and partial gift of the artist

A professor of photography at Arizona State University’s Herberger College of Fine Arts, Stephen Marc constructs narrative montages that juxtapose personal memorabilia, antebellum plantation structures, documents, and artifacts with contemporary cultural references to explore the African Diaspora.Stemming from his personal journey of discovery, since the early 1990s Marc has investigated the trans-Atlantic slave trade and African American life in the Midwestern communities where he was raised. In 2002 Marc began working on his Passage on the Underground Railroad Series that grew out of a community-based project initiated by Mississippi State University. Ten montages comprise the series many of which incorporate some of the thousands of photographs he has taken since 2000 of Underground Railroad sites across the United States and Canada.

Individually the works in the series are not titled, but Marc refers to this image as the “Double Tap Brand.” In the foreground a young man shown from the neck down, a tattoo emblazoned on his arm, walks along a wrought-iron fence with cotton fields, railroad tracks and columned houses in the background. As a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity at Mississippi State, which encourages its members to sport tattoos of the Greek symbol for Sigma, they are given the nickname “The Master Branders.” A double Sigma tattoo is commonly referred to as a “double tap brand.” The ambiguity of the work is further enhanced through close examination of the writing in the sky. Reproduced from a historical document in which a slave owner voices his opinion against the abolition of slavery, Marc repeats the phrase to blend in with the clouds.

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