Black History Month Special Issue Winner in Art: Withdrawn

Artist Statement

One evening, in the spring of 1987, unable to carry his burdens any longer, my grandfather walked into a field, sat down under a tree and laid them down.

Withdrawn is an intimate exploration of my soul relationship with this grandfather I never knew. It is the story of race, injustice and the anguish of slavery’s legacy. For the first time in my life, I journeyed down South to step foot on the soil where my ancestors settled after slavery and where my grandfather was born. I wanted to stand in these places, to feel them for myself and imagine how my grandfather may have experienced them. The events that took place here, in Livingston, Texas, led to my grandfather’s lifelong struggle with identity and to his tragic end. The truth about what happened in this small, segregated town was clouded in the kind of mystery and secrecy that protects a white version of history. My hope was that I, the daughter of my ancestors, would piece together the fragmented past, dig through the petrified lies and set the old bones free.

Images courtesy of Juliana Cottrell.

About the author

Juliana Cottrell grew up between Oakland, CA and Indian Country of the Pacific Northwest.  Within these two worlds, she became acutely aware of the injustice around her.  In high school she began photographing the beauty of Indian Country and fell in love with the solace she found behind the lens.  She later earned a Master of Social Work degree and worked for years as a social worker in Oakland’s urban landscape.  During this time she returned over and over to the camera, bringing visual balance to her images as a way of defying the extreme imbalance of the world around her.  While continuing her social work, Juliana built her portfolio through personal projects and as a freelance photographer. In 2018 she earned her MA in Photography from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Juliana currently lives in Oakland, California.

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