In conversation with Joel Daniel Phillips

Please join Philbrook Museum of Art Director Scott Stulen as he discusses “Killing the Negative” with poet and educator Quraysh Ali Lansana and draftsman Joel Daniel Phillips.


Thursday, January 28th at 6pm pst.

Hosted on Zoom, please register for this talk here.


“Killing the Negative” is a series of writings and drawings by Lansana and Phillips in response to a subset of the Farm Security Administration’s (FSA) foundational commissioned photographs of the Great Depression. These images are of course, well known, and images like “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange have become some of the most recognizable and important images in the American photographic lexicon. Less known, however, is the process by which these images were selected for publication: Roy Stryker was the head of the FSA, and for the first 4 years of the project, images he deemed unworthy were “killed” by punching a hole in the original negative.


The larger contemporary political debate is one that makes many of the questions from the era of the Great Depression deeply resonant; questions of race, class, labor and compensation, land ownership, stratified socio-economics and ecological protection are embedded in the original censored FSA photographs. The collaboration between Lansana and Phillips responds to the echoing voids in the narrative created by the censorship, weaving new images and words into the spaces left by Stryker’s hole punch. Within the project, Stryker’s destructive editing process acts as a larger commentary on truth and the veracity of the historical record, pointing out the flaws in our reliance on this record, and calling into startling clarity the power that a single individual had to shape the collective understanding of an entire nation.


About the Participants:


Scott Stulen is the Director and President of Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He's also an artist, curator, programmer and DJ.


Quraysh Ali Lansana is an American poet, book editor, civil rights historian, and professor. Lansana is the author of eight books of poetry in addition to textbooks and works for children. A former faculty member of both the Writing Program of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Drama Division of The Juilliard School, Lansana served as Director of the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing at Chicago State University and was an Associate Professor of English/Creative Writing. He is currently a Tulsa Artist Fellow.


Joel Daniel Phillips is a draftsman whose work centers on questions of truth, historical amnesia, and the veracity of the stories we tell ourselves about our collective pasts. Phillips’ work has been exhibited across the United States as well as abroad, and he is represented by Hashimoto Contemporary in San

Francisco, CA and New York, NY. His drawings can be found in the public collections of the Ackland Art Museum, the Urban Nation Museum For Urban Contemporary Art, the West Collection, the Gilcrease Museum, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and the Denver Art Museum . In 2016 he was the 3rd prize recipient in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, and the artist is currently a Tulsa Artist Fellow.

January 11, 2021
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