Skip to main content

ST. LOUIS, July 30, 2020—The Saint Louis Art Museum will present “Incense Sweaters & Ice”, a 2017 video work by Los Angeles-based artist Martine Syms, as the latest installment of the New Media Series. The free exhibition will be on view in Gallery 301 from Aug.7 through Nov. 15.

Syms uses video and installation to investigate the formation of Black subjectivities in media production. Her work addresses how Blackness is represented (or misrepresented) and the relationship between those representations and mainstream culture, feminist thought, and radical political and artistic traditions.

“Incense Sweaters & Ice” is the artist’s first feature-length video. St. Louis artist and actor Katherine Simóne Reynolds plays one of the three protagonists, Girl. This character and the other principals—Mrs. Queen Esther Bernetta White, and WB (also called Whiteboy)—pass through phases of watching, being watched, and remaining unseen. The characters’ mundane experiences remind viewers of the influence of surveillance and media on perception and identity.

Filmed in Los Angeles, St. Louis and Clarksdale, Miss., “Incense Sweaters & Ice” carries echoes of generations’ experiences of the reality and perception of Blackness in the United States.

In her works, Syms explores the importance of performance as a strategy to examine the power of gestures, imposed identities, and embedded assumptions around gender and racial inequalities. The video examines the performance of identity, the act of performing on social media, and the concept of the “other” as a performative state of being. Her artistic practice endows simple moments and gestures with compelling political resonances.

The exhibition is curated by Hannah Klemm, associate curator of modern and contemporary art, with Molly Moog, research assistant for modern and contemporary art.

CONTACT: Matthew Hathaway, 314.655.5493,

Scroll back to top