‘Cash Crop’ Links Slavery to Sweatshops
Guilford College Art Gallery presents “Stephen Hayes: Cash Crop,” featuring 15 life-size sculptures of human beings in shackles. Meet Stephen at a reception, free and open to the public, 6-7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7.
The exhibition, on display through Dec. 16, grapples with the trans-Atlantic slave trade, specifically the conditions aboard ships used to transport slaves from Africa to the Americas. Fifteen sculptures − one of which Stephen Hayes modeled on himself − represent the 15 million Africans enslaved and brought to the New World beginning in 1540.
“This body of work serves as a reflection of the past and a glimpse of our present,” Stephen says. Each figure is backed with a wooden slab, which stands almost like a tombstone, carved with a depiction of a slave ship on the back.
These woodcuts represent approximately 600 Africans packed and transported as goods for monetary gain, and “demonstrate how the New World was economically established, economically maintained, and how the New World accommodated a way of living to bring about economic opportunity,” Stephen adds.
Additional components of the exhibition include prints, drawings and sculptures that draw further parallels between the economics of the Atlantic slave trade and the Third World sweatshops of today.
“The experience of walking among and being surrounded by these slave figures is profound,” says Theresa Hammond, founding director and curator of the gallery. “I hope this exhibition will prompt dialogue and help viewers to make connections between our history and its impact on race today.”
Stephen is a 28-year-old African-American “creator” (he prefers this term to “artist”) from Durham, who recently completed his MFA at Savannah College of Art & Design. “Cash Crop” was his thesis exhibition at SCAD, which was then shown at Mason Murer Fine Art in Atlanta, where it received wide critical acclaim (including a feature on CNN).
Since then the exhibition has traveled the Southeast, including most recently the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, where it garnered Charlotte Magazine’s BOB (Best of the Best) 2012 Award for Best Art Exhibition.
“Cash Crop” is on display in the main gallery and the Hege Library atrium. Located in Hege Library, the gallery is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 2-5 p.m. Sunday. For more information call 336-316-2438.
The exhibition will be on display during Homecoming and Family Weekend, Sept. 27-30. African-American history is in the spotlight at Guilford this year as the College marks the 50th anniversary of enrolling its first African-American student.
“Stephen Hayes: Cash Crop” is organized by the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture. The College thanks Stephen Hayes and Mark Karelson of Mason Murer Fine Art.