In 2013, Asheville-born interdisciplinary artist Sherrill Roland was charged with a crime he didn’t commit. Though later exonerated, Roland would spend 10 months in prison — a traumatic experience detailed in Sugar, Water, Lemon Squeeze.
Opening Dec. 3 and running through March at Asheville Art Museum, this evocative exhibit dissects the invisible damages and burdens of mass incarceration, which disproportionately affect Black men. The exhibit also reflects on how Roland made the most of a grievous situation — how he took lemons and made art.
“I was offered no materials or resources from the state once I returned home,” says Roland, who has since been honored with the 2020 Southern Prize by South Arts and a 2021 Creative Capital Award. “Art,” he remembers, “was my only refuge.”
In Sugar, Water, Lemon Squeeze, the artist pulls from a variety of mediums, including sculpture and performance. He also incorporates materials that were available to him in prison: Cherry Kool-Aid, coffee filters, toilet paper, and even letters from loved ones.
The result is haunting and timely — “a reminder … to consider our own relationships to issues of justice,” says Pamela Myers, executive director of Asheville Art Museum.
Similarly, Roland expects museum patrons to be “more than a viewer … [to] accept this exhibition as a witness. To bear it as a responsibility. To want to protect someone they know or have yet to know from similar experiences.”
Sugar, Water, Lemon Squeeze will be on view through Monday, March 20, at Asheville Art Museum (2 South Pack Square, Asheville). General admission is $10 to $15 and free for museum members, UNCA students, active-duty military personnel, and children under six. The museum is open daily — except for Tuesdays — from 11am-6pm. On Thursdays, hours are extended to 9pm. Visit ashevilleart.org to purchase tickets. To learn more about Sherrill Roland, see sherrillroland.com.