‘White Man on a Pedestal’

“PONEROS” by Doreen Garner from the exhibit “White Man on a Pedestal,” which features works by Kenya (Robinson) and Doreen Garner at Pioneer Works, New York, Nov. 10 – Dec. 17, 2017. (Photo © Dan Bradica)

Among the statues in New York City under review as candidates for removal is that of J. Marion Sims, a 19th century gynecologist who experimented extensively on enslaved Black women without anesthesia. In an exhibit in Brooklyn at Pioneer Works, “White Man on a Pedestal,” artist Doreen Garner looks at Sims and examines, writes Matt Caprioli in Red Hook Star-Revue, “white patriarchy’s force over black female bodies.” Another artist, Kenya (Robinson) is also featured, her works inspired by a small white figurine named David Fowler, meant to represent white supremacy. Caprioli says that “this is a remarkable collaborative exhibit that pointedly conveys a horrifying and pervasive reality without losing poise or hope for a future that learns from the past.”

On view until Dec. 17, the exhibit includes an 18-foot blood-tinted polyurethane sculpture of Sims by Garner.

Garner calls the sculpture “PONEROS,” which is Greek for harmful or evil one. Garner’s monument reconstitutes the memory of a man whose actions (like the system that fostered them) were nefarious. Garner made the blood-red statue from insulation foam and polyurethane. Covered in silicone, she then removed the outer layer to create a “skin” that she placed in a glass coffin lit by halogen lamps. On November 30, Garner will perform the vaginal fistula repair that Sims is best known for on the “corpse” of red skin.

In Garner’s world, Sims receives the treatment he subjected black women to: he’s surgically mutilated without consent; his name is forcibly given; and he’s operated on as if he can feel no pain.

Go to Red Hook Star-Revue to read more descriptions of Garner and (Robinson)’s work, and to read about what’s planned for “thousands of David Fowlers” after the exhibit closes on Dec. 17.

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