“Portrait, number 1 of the man” by Sheldon Scott at the Kemper Art Museum – The Source
No one knows how the rice got to South Carolina. The plant is not native to the Americas. But records show that barrels of rice arrived in Charles Town harbor at least as early as 1672. By 1800, Carolina Golden Rice, derived from seeds from Madagascar, was the state’s main export.
This growth, and the wealth it brought, was due to slave labor. Working in hot and dangerous conditions, they built huge hydrological systems and cleared thousands of hectares of coastal marshes. They processed the resulting crops in winnowing barns – tall structures with perforated floors to filter out grains of rice while discarded hulls were blown away.
In “Portrait, number 1 man (day clean your sun down)”, performance artist Sheldon Scott pays homage to his ancestors, slaves in the Gullah / Geechee region of the Southeastern United States, by portraying their labor. The play consists of Scott, barefoot in a dark suit, kneeling on the floor as he hulls and valves the rice continuously from dawn to dusk.
On Thursday and Friday November 18 and 19, Scott will present “Portrait, Number 1 Male” at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis. The performance will begin at sunrise (approximately 6:45 a.m. CST) in the museum’s Saligman Family Atrium, before the museum opens to the public. Visitors will be able to watch the show during normal museum hours, between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. The show will end at sunset (approximately 4:45 p.m. CST).
Scott was born and raised on Pawleys Island in South Carolina, which in the years before the Civil War contained dozens of rice plantations and served as a summer retreat for plantation owners. He explained that by using his own body to highlight the experiences of enslaved people, his intention is to “restore humanity to the narrative of slavery in the southern United States.”
“The meditative nature of this work gives the viewer time to contemplate the race in this land, past, present and future,” Scott added, “a conversation we have come to understand requires America to use both its fast and slow muscles. “
See also: After Florence, the Gullah could face new threats
Scott’s performance is co-hosted with “The Outwin: American Portraiture Today,” which remains on view at the Kemper Art Museum until January 23. Organized by the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, “The Outwin” highlights the work of 46 artists who use the portrait genre to explore current social and political contexts. A 13 hour video of Scott’s “Portrait, Man Number 1” is included in the exhibit.
In addition to the performance, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, November 20, Scott will discuss his work at an online artist talk with Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, of the Department of Art History, University of Pennsylvania, as part of the Kemper Art Museum’s “In Conversation” series.
The artist’s performance, exhibition and lecture are all free and open to the public, but registration is required for the lecture; In addition, all museum visitors must present proof of full COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. For more information on campus COVID-19 policies, visit the WashU Together website. For more information on the museum’s programs, call 314-935-4523; visit kemperartmuseum.wustl.edu; or follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
About Sheldon Scott
Now living and working in Washington, DC, Scott explores the intersection of race, sexuality, and economics – and critiques black male stereotypes – through a broad fine art practice that encompasses performance, sculpture and installation as well as photography, speech, non-fiction and video creation.
Scott’s works have been shown at the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Delaware State University, Art Miami, and the American University Art Museum, among others. His work is included in collections such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
Scott has been a featured presenter at TEDx Mid-Atlantic, ArtTable, CreativeTime Festival, Washington Ideas Festival, and Smithsonian Long Conversation. He currently serves on the boards of Teaching for Change, the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, Transformer, and the Woolly Mammoth Theater, and is the Global Head of the Eaton Workshop. Scott is represented by CONNERSMITH Gallery and Ross Yoon Literary Agency.