The Family of Monticello
Art by Renee Billingslea
On display in MTC's Lieberman Gallery, October 1-22
I visited Monticello after reading Annette Gordon-Reed’s The Hemingses of Monticello. Just after getting out of my car, before I could see the iconic classical building we associate with Thomas Jefferson, I noticed a small protected section of woods—the recently identified cemetery of the enslaved people who lived and died at Monticello. A large, plain rock caught my attention. I realized it was placed by one of the enslaved people there to mark a grave. The story of the Hemings’ lives, long obscured, that Ms. Gordon-Reed’s research revealed became visually and palpably real, and a new artistic path opened for me.
I took the photographs of Monticello in the fall 2016. I added historical photographs with hand-stitching to bring a richer context and understanding of Monticello and the full family and community of people who lived, worked and died there.
Renee Billingslea is an artist who addresses issues of race, racial violence, white privilege and parts of American history we’ve long ignored. She teaches art at Santa Clara University and lives in Santa Clara with her husband, Aldo Billingslea.
Learn more about her work at www.reneebillingslea.com or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.