Painted in acrylic on plaster and wood, Fein’s portrait will be displayed alongside such works as an 1871 marble bas-relief profile of Lincoln, early nineteenth-century cut-paper silhouettes by French artist August Edouart, and Kara Walker’s 2005 Cotton Hoards in Southern Swamp (from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War).
Skylar Fein, a resident of New Orleans since 2005, believes that Lincoln’s opposition to slavery was shaped by a trip that he took as a teenager to New Orleans, which was then the center of the slave trade. Fein’s use of the silhouette taps into a long visual tradition, examples of which are included in the installation.
The silhouette was popularized in eighteenth-century Europe and soon caught on in the United States. Figures and profile portrait heads were cut from black card and set against a white ground or, in some instances, painted on glass. Evocative of the antebellum period and offering a graphic contrast of black and white the silhouette has inspired explorations of racial issues by contemporary artists such as Fein and Kara Walker.
A native of New York, Skylar Fein (born 1968) was a participant in Prospect.1 New Orleans, the 2008 biennial curated by Dan Cameron. His Remember the Upstair Lounge, a multimedia installation about a disastrous 1973 New Orleans fire at a gay bar that killed thirty-two and injured dozens, received broad critical acclaim. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions, including the 2009 exhibition Skylar Fein: Youth Manifesto at New Orleans Museum of Art, and is represented in public and private collections.
Image: Skylar Fein (American, born 1968). Black Lincoln for Dooky Chase, 2010.