Marshall Sharpe


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Ruins of Slave Cabin in Ft. George Island, Florida (1886), 2020
Acrylic on Canvas. 60″ x 60″

Artist Statement:

Although many plantation mansions were added to the National Register of Historic places, the cabins where the enslaved people lived were not included. This was true in my own family. My 5th great-grandfather’s plantation mansion in Greensboro, Alabama was preserved as a site of historical significance, while the majority of the enslaved cabins on the same property were destroyed. This is a classic example of a White institution using its authority to preserve a White-washed narrative that excludes the lives and stories of Black people. My work disrupts this erasure by intentionally focusing on the spaces and places where enslaved people lived.

By painting in greyscale over a background of metallic gold, the work references the Japanese concept of Kintsugi to emphasize the broken nature of racial capitalism in the U.S. Kintsugi, literally, “golden joinery,” is the process of mending a broken ceramic vessel by gluing the pieces together with a substance resembling gold. This process is based on the philosophy that breakage and repair are an integral aspect of an object’s history, rather than something to hide. The painting’s background and seams of gold suggest that these dwellings are important and worthy of our attention. I want the viewer to understand that it isn’t enough to remove Confederate monuments; we have to create new monuments that honor and preserve the homes of the enslaved as a signifiant aspect of U.S. History.

Though my mom told me we were a direct descendant of William Bradford, the first governor of Plymouth, and one of the original pilgrims on the Mayflower, I never knew the extent of my ancestor’s complicit relationship with slavery. My family passed down intergenerational wealth and stories of our white ancestors while ignoring the people our ancestors enslaved. This decision to forget is an integral aspect of my own White privilege. I aim to disrupt this privilege by publicly exposing a dark family secret. Moreover, i want my work to embody anti-racism by demonstrating what it looks like for a White man to wrestle with White privilege while publicly acknowledging the true source of the United States’ hegemonic wealth, beginning with my own family.

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