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Root Work Journal - Summoning Flight - Volume 2, Issue 1

Exodus Home

Jay Simple




Through this project, Exodus Home, Jay Simple uses self-portraiture, archival images, sculptural installations and collage to explore the issues of migration and home. Photographs of domestic and agricultural spaces in Virginia, specifically Prince Edward County, display spaces which were occupied and or abandoned during the period of the Great Migration, which occurred between 1916-1970, when six million people escaped

violent persecution in the south and arrived in northern, midwestern, and western cities across the United States.


An exodus of Black people poured out of the south and into the metropolitans which are now marred by brutality upon these migrant’s descendants. Moving has become a cycle, a frontier for the possibility of home, and the boundaries of that imagination are as endless as its oppositions. These hopeful ideas rest in the hallowed wood of old barns, in the memory ingrained into a body, in the things we create to mark our existence, and the late nights spent pondering, staring into the ocean of stars on a muggy night, somewhere not good, and imagining if only for a second you could leave it all behind.


This project was inspired by W.E.B Dubois who, during his research for The Philadelphia Negro, heard of Farmville, Virginia and created a ethnographic and sociological study of a place gripping with the social, economic, and political moment at the end of the 19th century, the precursor to the Great Migration. He titled this work, "The Negroes of Farmville, Virginia: a social study". This body of work is a testament to these ancestors who fled the South for hopes of a safe haven, and it is for their descendants who

continue that struggle today.


Jay Simple is a visual artist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is currently a AICAD Fellow at Parsons School of Design. Working through photography, video, sculpture, performance and large-scale installations, Simple examines historical and contemporary identity politics within the culture of (neo)colonial North America. He is also the founder of The Photographer's Green Book, a resource for equity, diversity, and inclusion within the photographic community. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, a Master of Liberal Art from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Hampden Sydney College(2019) and Longwood University(2019), and group exhibitions at Silver Eye Center for Photography(2021) Tilt Institute of the Contemporary Image(2021), Candela Books Gallery(2020), Jamestown Art Center(2018), and Clampart(2018).


Citation: Simple, J. (2022). Exodus Home. Root Work Journal, 2(1).

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