Sherrill Roland (b. 1984, Asheville, NC, Lives and works in Raleigh, NC) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work aims to challenge ideas around social and political constructs. He is the founder of the acclaimed Jumpsuit Project, intended to raise awareness around issues related to mass incarceration. The work grew out of personal history, from the ten months he spent in state prison on a wrongful conviction just as he had started his last year of grad school in 2013. Based on new evidence, Roland was exonerated of all charges in 2015. Back in school, he wanted to provoke conversation around issues related to incarceration, including prejudice toward those incarcerated.
Sherrill Roland began his ongoing Jumpsuit Project in 2016, drawing upon his experience being wrongfully convicted and spending ten months in state prison. In public walks, speaking engagements, and gallery spaces, Roland wears an orange jumpsuit similar to the one he wore while incarcerated. The performance both provokes conversations about incarceration and addresses the prejudices that exist toward those currently or formerly incarcerated. The performance intends to contradict the media’s depiction of imprisonment and to provide instead a window into lives affected by incarceration.
Roland’s Contraband works show prohibited items that Roland held dear when he was in prison, including dental floss, a razor, and an ink cartridge. That these basic items of self-care and communication were forbidden to him, and had to be procured illicitly, speaks to the deep inhumanity of the carceral system.
Sherrill Roland received both his BFA in Design and MFA in Studio Art from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His work has been presented at Open Engagement Chicago, Oakland City Hall and the Michigan School of Law. Recent exhibitions include CAM Houston, LACE: Los Angeles and Studio Museum of Harlem. He was recently an Artist-In-Residence at the McColl Center of Art + Innovation in Charlotte, NC and a Rights of Return USA Fellow.