All images © 2023 Gavin Worth  
















1 of 7


"X1" - Ink & thread, 33"x27"


Searching through hundreds of 19th-century photographs, daguerrotypes, and tintype portraits, primarily through the remarkable Randolph Linsly Simpson African-American Collection at Yale's Beinecke Library, I found haunting images of enslaved individuals as well as those living in the complicated, and often just as dire, times after emancipation. Unnamed and often simply set-dressing to the white charges they are holding, I felt compelled to reflect on those faces lost to history.

These portraits are made in meditation of those unknown faces. What is the consequence of lost identity, of cut roots, of family names changed by force? This is the significance of X, that unknown quantity, as most famously illustrated by Malcolm X. There is real and subversive power here that rings with some of the greatest sentiments of the American Civil Rights movement, in which protest against unjust law transformed the idea of criminality, making the act of being arrested a noble act. The X transforms that stolen and scrubbed identity into one new-made and powerful. The X transforms what society called illicit, unimportant, and shameful into something of dignity, nobility, and willful agency.

This series is ongoing.



"X2 with Child"

"X2 with Child" - Ink & acrylic, 14.5"x18.5"




"X3" - Ink, charcoal, & thread, 12.5"x17"




"X4" - Ink, charcoal, & thread, 15.5"x15"



"XGroup - Cakewalk"

"XGroup - Cakewalk" - Ink & pencil, 16.5"x20.5"


"X5 with Child"

"X5 with child" - Ink & charcoal, 6.5"x4.5"



"X6 with Child"

"X6 with Child" - Ink & charcoal, 6.5"x4.5"