In an era where the attack on black boys and masculinity has resurfaced in an overtly violent way, artist Chrystal Seawood, makes the exploration of brotherhood and masculinity the focal point of her show at the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center. On display until January 2, 2022, her large-scale interactive art installations, Slimes and Leave It All on the Court, invites viewers into the intimate spaces where brotherhood is defined, and masculinity can be vulnerable. 

Inspired by its subject’s Facebook posts, Slimes incorporates interviews with Fre’Angelo and Fabian, two young black men from Arkansas, who were former students of Seawood. In their recorded interviews, Fre’Angelo and Fabian recount their experiences of displacement, including: expulsion, incarceration and homelessness. 

“I would want my kids to remember that I was a hustler and that I love them… and this is my side of the story,” said Fabian, now a 21-year-old father and musician. 

His side of the story includes displacement, incarceration and a teacher who never stopped seeing him as “gentle and grand.” In Slimes, large-scale puzzle portraits of Fre’Angelo and Fabian playfully capture moments of brotherhood reflective of the safe spaces they created for themselves. 

Seawood is charmed by the resilience of her “gentle and grand” former students. Her memories of Fre’Angelo in class role playing characters from MK Asante’s, Buck, are just as vivid as her memories of visiting him in county jail where he spent most of his 10th grade year—without a conviction—because he couldn’t afford bail. 

“The installations journeys people through their [Fabian and Fre’Angelo] transient environments before finding a sense of home within each other,” Seawood said.

Brotherhood and masculinity blend on the half-court of Seawood’s second exhibit, Leave It All on the Court, which debuted in September this year at Huephoria in Columbia’s Merriweather District. Excerpts of interviews play over a pick-up game— voices of different ages expressing the safety of the court as, “somewhere you feel there’s peace.” And, let’s not forget the shoes— hundreds of sneakers— some tagged with QR codes connecting them to monumental moments in the lives of those who wore them. With this installation, Chrystal invites visitors into a sacred space with the intention to “complicate our ideas about masculinity and who may lay claim to it.”  

Seawood currently teaches Humanities at Kingsman Academy Public Charter School in Washington D.C. She says that she is constantly inspired by the energy of her students. She validates them and their experiences by memorializing them in her artwork. When viewing her installations and listening to the life stories of her subjects, Seawood asks that we “keep our minds lit”— lit with the openness that the life stories of black boys and masculine-identifying persons is multi-dimensional. 

Slimes and Leave It All on the Court are unique, thoughtful and all-inclusive exhibits passionate about celebrating the spaces of confusion, emotions, and intimacy not often highlighted. The exhibits blend moments of uncertainty with tender exuberance reminding visitors that like any other identity— masculinity and brotherhood include range. 

The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center is located at 847 North Howard Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. For more information, visit:  

Wendy Saulters
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