Did you know that before Robert E. Lee met with General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox to negotiate the terms of surrender that a white dish towel was raised? A classic and yet pedestrian signal of surrender, it’s also known as the Confederate Flag of Truce.
Artist Sonya Clark wove a giant version of the dish towel and made it the centerpiece of her installation at the DeCordova Museum, in Lincoln, MA (summer 2021). She asks the provocative question, “What if this was the symbol that endured?”
A facing wall features an iconic Gordon Parks photo of a cleaning woman. Clark stitched a reproduction of the cleaner’s dress and had someone video tape her wiping a floor with a confederate flag. A proper use. A reimagined status.
There were several other rooms of exhibits. I’ll leave you to find out more about them online.
In a tangential way, Clark’s show reminded me of a popular recent television series, Watchmen. The show answered a parallel question, “What if law enforcement was serious about chasing down and punishing white supremacists?”
A historian at the site of the Appomattox surrender describes the meeting between Lee and Grant here