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I Was Here: Behind the Art

A Synthesis of History, Image, Narrative, and Soundscape 

This NFT collection from I Was Here surged by bridging a project rooted in ancestry together with the eternal documentation capabilities of blockchain technology. 

Energy and mediums like collage, photography, architecture, and NFTs merge and transcend time and space like channels between realities. This collaboration is engineered to maintain an occult essence transcribed into the immortalization of important facts as digital assets in this new era.

This project began in 2016 with a vision of an African mother and child moving like points of light across the windows surrounding the largest auction site of the enslaved west of the Allegheny Mountains. I Was Here was created by photographing contemporary African Americans as archetypal Ancestor Spirits. 

The portraits embody family: mother, father, brother, and sister. They form cohesive, ethereal images that convey the dignity of the African American individual and family – imagery mostly missing in America’s visual history. It has developed into a portrait of powerful, dignified, holy, and beautiful people: a synthesis of history, image, narrative, and soundscape.

I Was Here begins with an honest look at the history of place. Ancestor Spirit Portraits have been integrated into key historic sites across America. The project creates a visual for an invisible history, asking us to examine who we are to each other, who we are as a nation, and how we can work to repair the wound in our citizenship created by enslavement. Through AR, image, narrative, and soundscape, the project creates a monument to a people.

What I Was Here accomplishes with its public art and public history installations is a mindful, reverent, and powerful acknowledgment of American history. The project invites as much as it prods visitors to allow this acknowledgment to hold public space and to accept the echoes layered into the project’s name, I Was Here.

I Was Here 

I Was Here is a collaboration between artist Marjorie Guyon and contributors Patrick J. Mitchell, Barry Darnell Burton, Daniel Ware, Michael Baer, Michael Preacely, and Syndy Deese. Layers of history and time are a constant in Guyon's work. One of the hallmarks is that her images at once emerge from, yet disappear into what appears to be an ancient surface. 

To build her compositions, Guyon works in collage and applies marble dust and pigment – earth from all over the world to create an archeology of the soul. Collage is a metaphor for America's Motto: Out of many comes one. E Pluribus Unum.

Patrick J. Mitchell is an international award-winning photojournalist from New York City, known for documenting present-day life and using human emotion to tell life's stories with his images. His works have been published in several books (Anthology of Appalachian Writers) and articles (Oprah Winfrey's O magazine and The Breona Taylor Billboard installation), in addition to being exhibited in several states across the country including The Lyric Theater, Arthouse, and Purdue Cultural Center.

Barry Darnell Burton, one of the models for the Ancestor Spirit Portraits is a resident of Lexington, KY. His family has traced their roots in Lexington back to 1840, before which there is no information. Along with his physical image, he is also the installation technician for tapestry portraits and the author of “Where Do I Begin,” the signature blessing that accompanies the installation, "Make a Wish on Mr. America," and "E Pluribus Unum" along with many additional narratives that frame the project.

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