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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (After Harriet Jacobs), 1997 (detail). Satin ribbons and book pages on linen. 64 x 52 inches (162.56 x 132.08 cm). Collection of the artists. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (After Harriet Jacobs), 1997. Satin ribbons and book pages on linen. 64 x 52 inches (162.56 x 132.08 cm). Collection of the artists.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (After Harriet Jacobs), 1997 (detail). Satin ribbons and book pages on linen. 64 x 52 inches (162.56 x 132.08 cm). Collection of the artists.
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Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (After Harriet Jacobs), 1997. Satin ribbons and book pages on linen. 64 x 52 inches (162.56 x 132.08 cm). Collection of the artists.
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Tim Rollins and K.O.S.

Tim Rollins and K.O.S. first participated in the FWM’s residency program in 1989, making two projects—at-shirt, entitled By Any Means Necessary and based on the autobiography of Malcolm X, and Scarlet Letter shirt, a white dress shirt emblazoned with an embroidered “A” and based on the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel.
 
In 1997, the group returned to the FWM, under taking a limited edition multiple, titled Invisible Man (after Ralph Ellison) and based on the novel of the same title. In an exhibition that same year at the FWM, they also presented a new painting from a series based on Harriet Jacobs’ autobiography, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. This young woman’s account of being born and raised as a slave in the South before the Civil War includes her eventual escape from an abusive master and describes seven years of hiding in a small garret in her grandmother’s house. The painting by Tim Rollins and K.O.S. combines actual pages from the book, which cover the surface of a canvas, and a delicate overlay of vertical bands of brightly-colored satin ribbons. The colors of the ribbons were selected by K.O.S. to express “the colors of joy,” a reference to a passage from Jacobs’ book when the narrator glimpses the brilliant, festive colored ribbons worn by local Christmas revelers from the window in her grandmother’s attic.
 
During their second residency in 1997 and later in 1999, Tim Rollins and K.O.S. led educational workshops for middle and high school students using Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl as inspiration for the group’s discussion and collaborative art project; the later workshop was held at the FW+M and sponsored by the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership.

Bio
Tim Rollins, American, born 1955, lives in New York City
In 1981, Tim Rollins was recruited by Intermediate School 52 in the South Bronx, New York, to start a program for adolescents who had been labeled by their school as learning-disabled or emotionally handicapped. Rollins established the Art and Knowledge Workshop, and Kids of Survival (known as K.O.S.) emerged from this interdisciplinary program. Rollins himself earned a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City (1978) before attending New York University for graduate school in art education. The Art and Knowledge Workshop is composed of junior and high school students from the South Bronx, and some of the longstanding members of the group now attend universities around the country. The group studies literary texts together, discovering their own Contemporary and personal interpretations, and then collaborates to make new art based on their responses. They have addressed books such as Franz Kafka’s Amerika, Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. Their work has been the subject of many museum exhibitions, including a web-based project at Dia Center for the Arts in New York (1997), and solo shows at The De Young Memorial Art Museum in San Francisco (2000), the Berkeley Art Museum (1998), and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (1992).