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Dimensions: 30 inches wide, 36 inches tall
Inkjet on matte paper, printed on both sides
Artist's narrative: Can one experience extreme joy and fear simultaneously? In Letter 62, Dunbar writes to William D. Howells to express his gratitude for the praise he received in Harper’s Weekly. Howells was a prominent Ohioan publisher, editor, and writer during Dunbar’s time. His review of Dunbar’s Majors and Minors is attributed as a major step in Dunbar’s career, as it awarded the Daytonian poet with great recognition. However, though Howell’s article portrayed Dunbar as a great and talented artist, it also painted his race as inferior. The tension between Dunbar’s joy for his career and the denigrating language used by Howells was the guiding design principle for this poster. A graphite and chalk sketch of roses, based on the wallpaper of Dunbar’s home, was used to express the joy of the moment. Meanwhile, the thorns represent the fear of being talked down to and the irrevocable harm that transpired. Variations in opacities both within the images and typography play off the tension between this joy-fear relationship. The poster uses the type families of Corundum, designed by African American typographer Joshua Darden, and Prenton, constructed by English designer Roy Preston. This type palette was chosen to complement the elegance and anxiety of the background imagery.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, Typography, Graphic Design, University of Dayton, Dayton history, Black history
De León, Sebastián, "Irrevocable Harm" (2023). Life in Letters: A Typographic Poster Exhibition Featuring Paul Laurence Dunbar. 16.