See Me See We


Through performance, found object sculpture, mixed media drawing, painting, video, photo and writing, Nyugen Smith deepens his knowledge of historical and present day conditions of Black African descendants in the diaspora.

Artist Bio

In N’Ko, a Mande language of West Africa, Hââbré means “writing,” but also stands for the practice of scarification that is common in West Africa. Followers of the custom place superficial incisions on their skin, using stones, glass, or knives, amounting to permanent body decoration that communicates a myriad of cultural expressions. See Me See We is a series of contemporary sculptural portraits of Nyugen Smith’s African ancestors represented through brass busts in the artist’s image and likeness, informed by Smith’s research on facial scarification, hairstyles, and body adornment traced back to their ethnic groups of origin dating back more than 500 years. Smith will employ modern technologies of 3D printing, DNA testing, and the ancient African technology of brass casting to create these works. The hairstyles—often a signifier of one’s ethnic group, class, and societal role—will be created using Smith’s own hair combined with other materials. Each bust will rest on handmade wooden pedestals, inspired by sacred ritual objects. The series of works will address how African spiritual practices and outward representations and expressions of African identity have been affected by colonialism.


Discipline
Sculpture
Award Year
2022
Status

In Progress

A Black man with full beard and mustache, wearing a camouflage shirt smiles slightly. He is surrounded by small floating, tactile vessels made of various materials. There is a white wall and window behind the person and vessels. Photo by Melissa Blackall

Nyugen Smith

Jersey City, NJ

Through performance, found object sculpture, mixed media drawing, painting, video, photo and writing, Nyugen Smith deepens his knowledge of historical and present day conditions of Black African descendants in the diaspora. Trauma, spiritual practices, language, violence, memory, architecture, landscape, and climate change are primary concerns in his practice. He holds a BA, Fine Art from Seton Hall University and an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Smith is the recipient of the Leonore Annenberg Performing and Visual Arts Fund, the Franklin Furnace Fund, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant. Major exhibitions and performances include Pérez Art Museum, Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, Norway, Oslo Kunstforening, El Museo Del Barrio, and Museum of Latin American Art.

Photo: Melissa Blackall