On the second floor, viewers journey into a glowing room painted haint blue. A projector casts the same hue on the ceiling of the room, emulating a tradition historically practiced by Black people throughout the South to ward evil spirits away from the home. Eight glass-blown sculptures of penises are suspended from the ceiling with twine; inside each of them is a single light. The sculptures are arranged along the ceiling in the shape of the big dipper—a symbol, Shikeith said, that gestures to the slaves who looked to the stars as guides on their quests for freedom.
Over the course of about an hour, the projection fades to black, leaving the room in total darkness, except for the glow of the illuminated sex organs. Shikeith chose to present the penises detached from a body, to signify the extreme violence that Black men weather, especially in relation to their sexuality, during and after slavery.
Shikeith’s artistic practice, and especially “Feeling the Spirit in the Dark,” unearths the intricate and lasting impacts of slavery on Black life, love, and sexuality. His explorations of religious disembodiment and “ecstatic experiences” offer an important and pointed analysis on how the institution of slavery affected one of the most intimate aspects of human existence.