Artist uses Cash Crop exhibit to educate - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Artist uses Cash Crop exhibit to educate

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Cash Crop exhibit at 701 Whaley Contemporary Center for Art Cash Crop exhibit at 701 Whaley Contemporary Center for Art

As you move through Stephen Hayes' exhibit Cash Crop, the rawness of the lifelike sculptures captures the brutality of the transatlantic slave trade in a unique way.

He says his aim is to educate through art.

"They just know that they picked them up and then had slavery and then had civil rights and alL the other events that led up to today," says Hayes. "But they don't know about the actual making of people as goods and commodities being shipped over."

The 29-year-old Hayes had 15 friends and family pose for the cement casts to represent the 15 million men, women and children who lost their lives on their journey to a strange new land.

"One statue represents 1 million," says Hayes. "It symbolizes the strength and struggle to become who we are today."

And his work hasn't gone unnoticed. The installation has been featured on CNN, galleries in New York City, and at the Harvey B. Gnatt Center for African American Art and Culture in Charlotte.

"It is amazing to me that he has 15 life-size statues," says Karen Starks. "The connection that he has made in terms of it was related to building the economy of this country on the backs of human beings."

Starks, who came to see Hayes' work, says slavery is a bleak moment in America's past but always bears remembering. The exhibit reminds her of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that says the "Arc of a moral universe is long but it bends towards justice."

"It only takes a conscience few to keep things alive and I believe this brother and his exhibit is one of the conscience few," she said.

Cash Crop runs through March 3rd and can be seen at the 701 Contemporary Center for Art free of charge.

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