This body of work explores historical and modern forms of media, language, arts, and culture that have been used as weapons for the enforcement and bolstering of constructs of superiority, racism, and othering. The manufacturing, perpetuation, and commercialization of stereotypes, biases, and discriminative practices not only misrepresents the Black community, but it also integrates dynamics of engagement which force Black people to navigate hostile environments and interactions through which they are demonized, fetishized, and brutalized. These conditions not only find themselves perpetuated in spaces of extreme oppression and racism, but also in spaces that feign inclusivity and progress. In both, the experience of Black individuals is coopted and curated through lenses, in which the interpretations and diversity of Blackness can be made palatable or easily digestible to the desires of others. This protects insecurities, fears, and complexes by sustaining a sense of control and dismissing ownership of the original creation of these ideals as well as the consequences of their integration into society. Under this pretense, a false dichotomy is created, in which the only perceived choices for Black people are performing a role that is being projected onto them or accepting the life-threatening risks of not pantomiming the expected roles. These dichotomies deny Blackness the freedom to exist without imposed definition and policing, presenting a language that “there are consequences” to being Black regardless of where one stands.  

With this body of work, Wan seeks to present that the Black identity could never be contained within these constructs and the ownership of its grotesque characterizations not only do not represent or belong to the Black community but are not the responsibility of the Black community to navigate or carry anymore. 

In 2023, Nkosi Wan received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a primary emphasis in painting and drawing. Over the course of his study, he also served as an instructor for the Department of Art and Design’s Introduction to Painting and Introduction to Drawing courses. Wan acquired his Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from Southeast Missouri State University in 2020. 

Opening Night Reception, Friday, March 8 from 6-9 p.m.

SPONSORSHIP

The Sheldon’s exhibition series is supported by The Bellwether Foundation, Barbara and Arthur McDonnell and the Regional Arts Commission and the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.