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New art exhibit in Baltimore features Black Catholic sculptor Wayman Scott IV

The temporary display, featuring various pieces related to Black activism, will run through late March at Baltimore Clayworks in Mount Washington.

(Catholic News Service/Kevin J. Parks/Nate Tinner-Williams)

A new temporary art exhibit in Maryland features a Black Catholic in Wayman Scott IV, a grief counselor who works part-time creating clay sculptures reflecting his faith and culture.

EARTH and LIFE,” a set of five works, will be on display at Baltimore Clayworks through March 25. They are Scott’s contribution to the studio’s winter exhibitions, for which an opening reception on January 14.

His sculptures include the “Baltimore Pietà,” a life-size piece inspired by incidents of police brutality in the United States, specifically the killing of unarmed African Americans. The striking piece is modeled on two Black individuals connected to both sides of the issue, including a victim of police harassment and a woman with two brothers who work in law enforcement.

“While both models have different experiences, they both support the movement for Black Lives,” Scott wrote.

Scott has said that his work “highlights the story of the marginalized using Baltimore City as a tapestry,” and a previous Black pieta he created—on a much smaller scale—was featured in Catholic News Service last year.

A smaller work in his new exhibit depicts Servant of God Mary Lange, a Baltimorean who founded the nation’s oldest order of Black Catholic nuns and oldest Black Catholic school, while a second depicts a young Frederick Douglass. Both are images that Scott says aren’t emphasized often enough in the telling of American history.

“Somebody in the early 1800s in a slave state, founding in order of nuns, creating a school for young women of color so that they can learn. It went all against the social norms,” he told BCM concerning Lange.

“The tenacity and power and strength and grace and faith. She had to have that in rivers. I thought it was important to highlight.”

The full display of Scott’s works is intended to cover a wide swath of Black activism, including a sculpture of Elijah Cummings, the late US Congressman who represented most of Baltimore and was noted for his activism on behalf of African Americans.

Scott says Cummings and Douglass represent more figures whose advocacy work is more well-known, while Lange and an engraved slab of musician Bob Marley are more didactic.

“[For] Bob Marley, people know him for his reggae music. They don't know about this work in the peace movement. So I wanted to highlight him as well,” he said.

All told, the room dedicated to Scott’s works is ultimately a quite religious display—though not solely due to Lange or the pietà dominating the space and arguably attracting most of the crowd’s attention. Cummings and Douglass were also known as devout Christians, and Marley too was a believer, baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church shortly before his death.

Scott’s exhibit is open to the public on Tuesday through Saturday, from 10am to 5pm ET, and on Sundays from noon to 5pm.

Correction (1/31/23): A previous version of this story stated that Bob Marley was baptized into the Eastern Orthodox Church on his deathbed. He was in fact baptized into the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger and a seminarian with the Josephites.

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