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Sherrill Roland

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Sherrill Roland (based in Raleigh, NC) is an interdisciplinary artist and the founder of the acclaimed Jumpsuit Project, which raises awareness around issues related to mass incarceration. The work grew out of personal history, reflecting the ten months Roland spent in state prison on a wrongful conviction just as he had started his last year of grad school in 2013. Based on new evidence, Roland was exonerated of all charges in 2015. Back in school, he wanted to provoke conversation around issues related to incarceration, including prejudice toward those incarcerated.

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2016 – Ongoing

Jumpsuit Project

Courtesy of the artist

Jumpsuit on wooden hanger, four framed photographs, and orange duct tape Sherrill Roland began his ongoing Jumpsuit Project in 2016, drawing on his experience of being wrongfully convicted. In public walks, speaking engagements, and gallery spaces, Roland wears an orange jumpsuit similar to the one he wore while incarcerated. The performance provokes conversations about incarceration and acknowledges the prejudices that exist toward those currently or formerly incarcerated. Jumpsuit Project intends to contradict the media’s depiction of imprisonment and instead, provide a window into the lives of those affected by incarceration.


Contraband Item #3

Courtesy of the artist

Cinnamon dental floss and paperclip Roland’s Contraband series shows prohibited items that Roland held dear when he was in prison, including dental floss, a razor, and an ink cartridge. That these basic items of self-care and communication were forbidden and had to be procured illicitly, speaks to the deep inhumanity of the carceral system.

Sherrill Roland’s work and clips from his interview are also featured in the following Barring Freedom study guides: Carceral VisualityFrom the Inside Out

Sherrill Roland received both his B.F.A. in Design and M.F.A. in studio art from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. His work has been presented at Open Engagement Chicago; Oakland City Hall, and the Michigan School of Law. Recent exhibitions include Contemporary Art Museum, Houston; Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), and The Studio Museum, Harlem. He was recently an Artist-in-Residence at the McColl Center of Art + Innovation in Charlotte, NC, and a Rights of Return USA Fellow.

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Suggested Reading

Anzaldúa, Gloria

Borderlands = La Frontera: The New Mestiza

First edition. San Francisco: Spinsters/Aunt Lute, 1987.

Browne, Simone

Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness

Durham: Duke University Press, 2015

Davis, Angela Y.

Are Prisons Obsolete?

New York: Seven Stories, 2003.

Freire, Paulo

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

30th anniversary ed. New York: Continuum, 2000.

Lorde, Audre

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

Crossing Press, 2007.

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