Leake Family Foundation
Mark & Michanne Mott
Jessica Stafford Davis
Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down) is a performance film by D.C. artist, Sheldon Scott. With this work, Scott uses his own body to create a portrait of his ancestors, enslaved people from the Gullah/Geechee region of the Southeastern U.S. The 12 hour and 20 minute film documents an endurance performance by the artist, in which he processes rice grains individually with his hands. Through using his own body to represent an entire community of enslaved people, Scott restores humanity to the narrative of slavery in the American South.
“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” he explains. “This rhythmic, inane process will communicate the transactional and the incalculable.”
Sheldon Scott is a native of Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. A former psychotherapist and professional storyteller, his fine art practice is primarily focused on performance and video installation. Scott mines his experiences growing up in the Gullah/Geechee South and his tenure in a mental health practice to examine the Black male form and expectations of usability and expendability as they relate to constructs of race, economics and sexuality. Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down) explores some of the most pressing social issues facing the nation and the region today: race, place, white supremacy and the brutal history and lasting legacy of slavery.
This film features a score by iconic singer-songwriter and composer, Tamar-kali, and features the cinematography of critically acclaimed filmmaker and artist, Jon-Sesrie Goff. Portrait, number 1 man (day clean ta sun down) was included in the exhibition, The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today, at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.