Located at Port Authority, near Ninth Avenue, is an interesting new exhibition by the artist Sara Bunn. We Wore More Than Shackles ~ A Day in the Life of Seneca Village are life size, beautifully clothed figures, inspired by 1830s fashions, representing the people of Seneca Village. Recognizing both Black History Month and Women’s History Month, the exhibition tells a story through fashion, in colorful reproduction period pieces, viewing Seneca Village residents through an expanded lens, not often told.
Bunn speaks of how she’s always been intrigued by period dresses, old films, old books, antiques ~ and as a textile artist, she unites these passions by telling a story, bringing attention and awareness to periods of time not well known, or often discussed. “We create fashion that helps depict stories of historical-fiction rooted in truth and fact. Some stories of our nation’s history are difficult to bring to the surface.” In this exhibition, her focus is on the Antebellum period and Seneca Village, set in the late 1820s through 1858, in early New York City.
The exhibition retell’s the story in a visual representation of people of color, the enslaved, emancipated, and the well-to-do ~ before, during and after the Antebellum period through to The Reconstruction, portraying “self -sufficient communities of color consisting of professional, politically savvy, and hard-working laborers, with principals based on family, education, church, schools, farms and gardens.”
Realizing that history books show only a particular perspective of the African’s experience as down-trodden, We Wore More Than Shackles displays finely dressed Village residents, attempting to tell their story – who they were and how they lived.
The life-size, finely dressed, images portray the story of the middle-class, who strive to move away from disease, filth, and violence against them ~ to a place where there is clean air, and farmland to purchase ~ Seneca Village, now part of Central Park West.
“I would like to think that my artful interpretations can help counterbalance the negative and damaging visuals and perceptions of our ancestors. I want to share visions of great people of character and civic duty. I would like to give our children an opportunity to see themselves in people who look just like them, represented in American History in an empowering way.” Sara Bunn in her mission statement.
A printed scroll is pinned next to each exhibit, giving the story suggested by the painting or clothing, along with credit’s to photographers involved in the project.
Bunn exhibited We Wore More Than Shackles in 2016 at the Morris Jumel Mansion in Sugar Hill; at Spencer Museum in Lawrence, Kansas in 2017; and a traveling exhibition to Vermont and Ohio in 2018.
We Wore More Than Shackles ~ A Day in the Life of Seneca Village by Sara Bunn is currently on view at Port Authority Terminal, curated by Myron Johnson, PABT Curator of Arts and Entertainment. Port Authority Terminal is located between 40th and 41st Streets, from Eighth to Ninth Avenues, with the exhibit close to Ninth Avenue. Our photo’s don’t due justice to the beauty of the finely detailed work of the artist. The exhibition will be on view through April, 2019.