LESLIE BERNS
BOOKMARKS for a MIXED RACE NARRATIVE: Who Could and Couldn't Marry Whom (Fluidity) - detail

2015
cut paper, collage, foam core
22" x 30"
(Portraits Courtesy of Harry H. Laughlin Collection, Special Collections Department, Pickler Memorial Library, Truman State University)


Portraits and text from a document titled "Anti-Miscegenation Laws of the Several States: 1932" (established by the Commonwealth of Virginia) are recontextualized and graphically displayed as "bookmarks". These reference the increasingly influential role of reading and research in my practice and in the writing of a personal narrative within a social, historical context.

Four out of five of the "bookmarks" frame copies of individual portraits, painted around 1932, of people designated "Negro", "Mulatto", "Quadroon", "Octoroon", "1/16 Composite 'Pass for White American Type' ", for whom it was illegal, along with "Malay" (Asian) and "Indian", to marry "Caucasian". In the fifth "bookmark" there is no portrait, only text, which states "No Negroid Mixture, All-Caucasian Descent". The checkerboard pattern shifts, flows and undulates back and forth across a "color line". Every other bookmark is mounted on ¼” foam core resulting in an uneven surface.
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