Steal Away to Freedom

Steal Away to Freedom 8

Six abolitionists who were generals of the underground railroad: Surrounding Harriett Tubman are Levi Coffy, William Still, John Brown, Frederick Douglas, and Lewis Hayden. From “The Abolitionists” from the “Stealing Away to Freedom” art book by Joyce Wellman


Joyce Wellman is an mid-career artist who engages in persistent experimentation with ideas, media, composition and materials. Blending the genres of painting, drawing, printmaking she has pushed her ideas and concepts to generate new pathways of exploration. “I want diverse audiences to explore, conjecture, wonder, recall memories, and experience ways that visual imagery can connect us to of our inner and universal selves,” she says.

Steal Away to Freedom 10

Since the late 1970s, Wellman’s prints, drawings and paintings have been regularly exhibited nationally and internationally. Her works can be seen in the permanent in the collections of US Library of Congress; the US Embassies of Kenya and Liberia; Georgia Museum of Art;  New York Public Library and Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. She was Artist In Residence at the North Carolina A&T State University Greensboro, where she was commissioned to create a mural for the lobby of the University’s New Science Building.

The work presented here is from “Steal Away to Freedom”, was created while she was the Tague/Robert Blackburn Visiting Artist at the Experimental Printmaking Institute of Lafayette College in Easton Pennsylvania. It is an accordion-style book of abstract etchings and narrative collages inspired by stories of slaves who sought freedom in northern states, Canada or Mexico.Her residency at BMC “afforded me the opportunity to continue working on new ideas for Steal Away”, which included  audio and video works integrating slave narratives and songs of the pre-Civil War period to accompany the images.

(Photo of Joyce Wellman by Sharon Farmer/sfphotoworks)

A video about Joyce Wellman’s Steal Away to Freedom.

Steal Away to Freedom 7

The Steal Away to Freedom art book 


Steal Away to Freedom 1

At the Crossroads

The proverbial “where to do I go from here” moment of all journeys.


Steal Away to Freedom 2

Screaming Pheasant Plumed Serpent 

The Screaming Pheasant is also known as the Road Runner. The Feathered Serpent is known as Quetzalcoatl, the Pre-Columbian God of Mexico. These two mythic characters introduce Mexico as a destination for slaves escaping from Texas.


Steal Away to Freedom 3

Many Mandelas

This represents the sacred unfolding of the individual on a journey, who is signified by the inner most circle nested within larger circles.


Steal Away to Freedom 5

O Canada

An image for what I call a “geometry of escape”. This page highlights the sacred role of the circle, pentagon and square. Symbolically, they combine spiritual guidance, intuition and practicality. These forms signify otherworldly “tools” used for escape.


Steal Away to Freedom 6

Follow the Drunkard’s Path

The road to escape was long and winding.


Steal Away to Freedom 4

The Doors to Hopes and Dreams

The final destination in Steal Away. It’s a symbolic gateway for those who dared to break the shackles of slavery and head for freedom on the Underground Railroad.