Urgent Museum Notice

Afro Abe II

Close up of Afro Abe II

U.S. five-dollar bill has an embroidered afro and sideburns stitched onto the portrait of Lincoln’s head. One-third of the afro protrudes beyond the top of the bill.

Sonya Clark, Afro Abe II, 2012; Five-dollar bill and hand-embroidered thread, 4 x 6 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Sonya Y.S. Clark; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

Afro Abe II
Sonya Clark

In Afro Abe II, Sonya Clark transformed a U.S. five-dollar bill to reveal connections between money, power, and pride. Clark made her first two Afro Abe artworks in 2007 when then-Senator Barack Obama began his presidential campaign. Over the next five years, she created 42 additional Afro Abe pieces to honor his place as the 44th President of the United States of America. At the same time, the series lauds President Abraham Lincoln as an early civil rights leader.

Clark says, “I investigate simple objects as cultural interfaces. . . . What is the history of the object? How does it function? Why is it made of a certain material? How did its form evolve? These questions and their answers direct the structure, scale, and material choices in my work.”

Here, her use of currency-as-canvas evokes personal, cultural, and historical associations with money—freedom, self-determination, and property ownership. Further, U.S. currency is made primarily of cotton, a cash crop associated with slavery.

Crowning Lincoln with an embroidered Afro, a symbol of black political rebellion, resistance, and self-affirmation, infuses the bill with new meaning. This juxtaposition is both humorously incongruent and poignant.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Sonya Clark
  • Title

    Afro Abe II
  • Date

    2012
  • Medium

    $5 dollar bill, Hand-embroidered thread
  • Dimensions

    4 x 6 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection
  • Photo Credit

    © Sonya Y.S. Clark; Photo by Lee Stalsworth
  • On Display

    No