Power Suit, 2023
8 x 24 inches
Archival pigment print
Open edition, available only through December 10, 2023
Signed and dated by the artist
From vast freestanding sculptures to intimate gallery installations, Nekisha Durrett’s work leverages unexpected materials to make visible the historical connections and connotations that places and materials embody, but are overlooked in our day-to-day lives. Whether reimagining pre colonial landscapes, bygone Black communities, or family lore, Durrett’s research-driven practice strives to carve out contemplative spaces and offer opportunities for viewers to consider what is revealed or concealed when information is filtered across time.
Durrett earned her BFA at The Cooper Union in New York City and MFA from The University of Michigan School of Art and Design as a Horace H. Rackham Fellow. She was the 2023 Howard University Social Justice Consortium’s (SJC) Artist in Residence Fellow. Her work is included in numerous private collections and public institutions, including The National Museum of African American History and Culture and The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC.
Power Suit is a nod to the union of Pullman Porters called the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and the artist’s grandfather, George Brown, who served as a porter in the 1930s. The activism of the Pullman Porters, led by A. Philip Ranolph, for fair pay and equal rights, changed the landscape and laid the blueprint for American Fair Labor practices. Their activism led to the creation of the Black middle class as well as the Labor Day holiday; as the first Black labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was made up of men and women who were overworked, underpaid, and demeaned on a daily basis.
Male porters were often referred to as "George" or "boy" by white travelers and train staff. This harkened back to the era of slavery as George Pullman was the owner of Pullman Sleeping Cars, so the moniker was intended to imply that these men were his property. The artist's grandfather has since passed on, but she wonders how he felt about his own name being used as a slur against him. To further personalize this tribute, the artist has included a nod to her grandfather; one of many letters that her grandmother wrote to him while he was traveling the rails sticks out of the pocket of the Pullman uniform - a small, and most likely imperceptible to passers by. In the letter, she wishes that she could hide inside his suitcase to join her husband.
This signed fine art print is based off of the billboard that Durrett created as a part of Silkroad’s American Railroad tour, which use a visual vernacular to tell stories of the fraught legacy of American Imperialism and the quiet histories of those who toiled to build this country. The billboards will be on display in Los Angeles from October 30 – November 27, 2023. Durrett has collaborated with For Freedoms on numerous occasions, including this summer’s unveiling celebration of the artist’s Washington, DC permanent public installation, Queen City.
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