Exhibitions: Sanford Biggers: Sweet Funk—An Introspective

Cheshire

Like the video of the same title, this sculpture refers to the Cheshire Cat, the feline character in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland known for its ear-to-ear grin and its ability to disappear gradually, its famous smile remaining the last thing visible. With its broad grin, thick red lips, and flashing white teeth, Cheshire resembles a billboard or a shaped sign, and it has been shown dangling from a tree branch. The sculpture makes knowing reference to stereotypes of the appearance and behavior of African Americans, as portrayed, for example, in minstrel shows popular in the nineteenth century that featured white performers made up in blackface. As such, Cheshire functions as a kind of logo for taunting a racist stereotype, as well as an emblem of the process of reclaiming and transforming one’s identity.