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Sarah Williams

Charles Ray American

Not on view

Sarah Williams reinvents a moment from chapter 10 of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when Jim helps Huck disguise himself as a girl before he sets out to gather information about the search effort underway for them. "Sarah Williams" is the moniker Huck assumes upon arriving in town, making the name a double fiction: a persona adopted by Huck, who is himself an invention of Twain’s imagination. With an identity as unstable as its gender, this character is precisely the kind of transgressive, contradictory cultural reference that has long intrigued Ray.

Loosely following the book, the work shows Jim kneeling behind Huck, thread and fishhook in hand, preparing to adjust the hem of his dress. Ray has said that the work transforms "two people" into "one structure," compressing Huck and Jim into a single three-dimensional frame. It was machined out of stainless steel, which dematerializes the surface, creating pockets of light and shadow that temper verisimilitude with abstraction. The effect is kinetic and changeable, like waves lapping along a sunlit shoreline. The steel also renders the figures’ skin color inexact; however, race-based relations of domination and subordination persist in Jim’s and Huck’s relative positions.

Sarah Williams, Charles Ray (American, born Chicago, Illinois, 1953), Stainless steel

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photograph by Charles Ray Studio