Sunday, August 21, 2016


By Gregory Disney-Britton
Leigh Guldig's "Derailed" illustration for the Underground Railroad
When it comes to Christianity, the Underground Railroad is America's moral compass. While few used it, most of us today project ourselves as heroes in the story---blacks with the courage to escape, and whites with the courage to help. In her review of the new book, the "Underground Railroad,"  Kathryn Schulz wrote that it "provides us with moral comfort." We wondered what could be more comforting than Leigh Guldig's railroad that lifts up to the sky? Since its appearance in The New Yorker, however, the illustration has been the subject of some spirited debate.
"The Underground Railroad" (2016) by Colson Whitehead
Is the "Derailed" illustration a pessimistic image of a fugitive's journey "set on rails" that all at once flies away; or is it an optimistic depiction of a journey taking flight? Such is the tension filled appeal of the Underground Railroad, and Guldig has rendered this American story with both honor and horror. In 2014, she told Print Magazine, "I’ve developed a fairly regimented process. I begin with research and word maps to generate ideas.... I love discovering new ways to solve visual puzzles." It's the American puzzle of good and evil that keeps us coming back to these stories, and why Leigh Guldig's "Derailed" is more than a railroad—it’s a religious experience.

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