sugaring off (2011)
single-channel video projection, gap variable, duration 12m38s
it is late winter and the artist traverses the forest clearing, stopping at each tree to drink all of the maple sap that has collected in the bucket hanging from it. the scene is still but not bleak; hinting as much at the coming spring as at the receding winter. from the point of view of performance, drinking gallons and gallons of sap so quickly is both a feat and an (unwanted) indulgence.
the work is a response to eastman johnson's series of paintings from the 1860s in which free northerners revel as they gather sap and boil it down in large cauldrons to make maple syrup. at the time, maple syrup was an icon of abolitionism and freedom, as cane sugar production was possible only through the continued exploitation of slave labor along the gulf coast and in the caribbean. the divided video frame in this piece references the number of small studies johnson made for the large painting which he never produced.