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EXHIBITION: ‘Payne’-ful Business, Charleston’s Journey to Truth

October 3 @ 9:00 am - October 31 @ 5:00 pm

A Pontoon boat drifts on a river under a blue sky with puffy clouds.

In ‘Payne-ful’ Business, Charleston’s Journey to Truth in the Milliken Art Gallery, John W. Jones, legacy preservationist and acclaimed artist, presents a powerful series of more than 30 paintings of the enslaved in the antebellum period. The work draws on the historical research of Margaret Seidler, fourth great-granddaughter of domestic slave trading auctioneer William Payne, and references descriptive text gleaned from newspaper advertisements from that time in history.

The artist takes Payne’s newspaper ads offering for-sale blacksmiths, cooks, child nurses, brick masons and dozens of other talents, and transforms their trades, skills, and labors into a compelling visual narrative of the pervasiveness and magnitude of the contributions of the enslaved. Seidler’s book, ‘Payne-ful’ Business, Charleston’s Journey to Truth, incorporates Jones’ compelling images in support of her historical interpretations of her recently discovered ancestors.

Born May 11, 1950, in Columbia, SC, John W. Jones has been a freelance artist and illustrator for more than 25 years, and uses oils, acrylics, and watercolors for his painting. Jones’ goal is to paint the African American experience beginning with the slave trade in Africa and extending through the Middle Passage and pre-Civil War era, and to contrast it with the experience of African Americans today.

Jones has received several awards, including merit awards for his works in the 1998 and 1999 Piccolo Spoleto Festival Art Show. Jones, who graduated from high school in 1968 and is self-taught, has been drawing since early childhood. Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1970, Jones served in the Vietnam War and took illustration classes in military school. Additionally, Jones has lectured widely as an artist, activist, and motivational speaker at various universities and colleges, conferences, and corporate events.

‘Payne-ful’ Business, Charleston’s Journey to Truth will run from October 3-31, 2024.

Jones and Seidler will present a Gallery Talk on October 3, 2024, at 6:00 pm in the gallery followed by a reception from 6:30-8:00 pm.

The exhibition is located in the Milliken Art Gallery and is free of charge. Gallery hours are Sunday 2:00-5:00 pm, Monday – Friday 9:00 am-5:00 pm. The Gallery is closed during school holidays.


October 3 @ 9:00 am
October 31 @ 5:00 pm
Event Categories:
Art, Cultural Events


Kathryn Boucher


Alumni, Board of Trustees, General Public, Students


Milliken Art Gallery
580 East Main Street
Spartanburg, SC 29302 United States
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