New York artist Xiomáro (pronounced SEE-oh-MAH-ro) presented a talk at the LeRoy Neiman Art Center on August 6, 2014 to discuss his photographs, which are on display as part of the Center’s Courage and Creativity group exhibit. One of the photographs that drew much interest and discussion depicted a little-known slave cemetery at the estate of one of the nation’s Founding Fathers.
Many audience members were unaware that the poignant black-and-white photograph of white crosses, with one bearing the name “Harry,” was from a slave burial plot located at the William Floyd Estate in Mastic Beach, Long Island, which is a National Park unit of Fire Island National Seashore. The estate was the 4,400 acre plantation of General William Floyd, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a colleague of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.
The photograph, titled The Courage to Reveal the Truth, was part of a larger series titled The Other Side – Charles, Caesar, Harry, Sam, Pompey, Lon and Isaac. That series was exhibited during Black History Month this year at African Burial Ground National Monument in lower Manhattan.
“I’ve had folks tell me that I am being inaccurate and that there is no story to tell,” explains Xiomáro, “because there is no proof that anyone is actually buried under those crosses. But history confirms that Floyd did have slaves on his plantation. So, I’m exhibiting my photographs to raise public awareness, provoke dialogue and inspire further research about the graveyard.” The artist encourages the Harlem community to visit the cemetery and to learn more about the larger historic site of which it is a part. Admission is free of charge and visitors can explore the forest, fields, marsh and trails. Free tours of Floyd’s 25 room mansion are also available.
Xiomáro is a nationally exhibited artist whose work has been covered by The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Fine Art Connoisseur and News 12 Long Island. At present, 130 of his photographs can be seen at eight exhibits from Boston to Philadelphia including Harvard University and the Long Island Museum. Xiomáro turned to fine art photography after a career as an entertainment attorney representing Pop and Hip Hop artists such as Lisa Lisa, Village People, MC Shan and young rap artists produced by Guru and Premier of Gangstarr. His goal now is to use photography to draw new and diverse audiences into the National Parks in keeping with a mandate issued by Ken Salazar, who was appointed Secretary of the Department of the Interior (2009-13) by President Obama.
Xiomáro’s talk was part of a larger presentation with other artists in the Courage and Creativity group exhibit. The renowned artist, Henri Matisse, observed that “creativity takes courage.” In keeping with this theme, the Neiman Art Center invited a number of contemporary artists that are unafraid to express emotions and ideas for public consideration and critique.
The LeRoy Neiman Art Center was launched six years ago through a generous gift from the acclaimed American painter LeRoy Neiman (1921-2012) who is known for his expressive and boldly colored images of sporting events and leisure activities. The Art Center is located at 2785 Frederick Douglass Boulevard near 148th Street in Harlem, New York City.