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Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down)

Sheldon Scott2018 (premiere 2019)

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Washington, D.C., United States

Performance artist Sheldon Scott debuts his latest piece, Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down), during the opening weekend of The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today. The performance follows the prolonged working hours of the enslaved people in coastal regions of the pre-Civil War South. In Scott’s own words: “From sun up until sun down, the body will hull and winnow rice grains, then place the hulled grains, one by one, on a tomb-like vessel lined with burlap until the weight and value of the vessel equals that of the body laboring to fill it. This rhythmic, inane process will communicate the transactional and the incalculable.”

Scott’s work addresses themes of race, economics, and sexuality, with a focus on the Black male experience. Precious in Da Wadah, A Portrait of the Geechee (2016) set the stage for this piece as it explored techniques that enslaved Africans and their descendants used to produce rice in the coastal region of South Carolina.

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