2006, charcoal on paper, 44" x 30"
(The original 2006 portrait has been lost by Sotheby’s of New York. Mat’s drawing was re-created in 2016).
Mat Fraser, actor, playwright, and activist, is based in both New York and London. His work on stage, film, TV, and radio has had a tremendous impact on the representation of Disability in both underground and popular media.
For Totems, Fraser chose as his alter ego the famous freak-show performer Stanley Berent, a.k.a. “Sealo The Seal Boy”. Sealo/Berent was a long time regular on the Coney Island circuit from the 1920’s to the 1970’s, and whose disability was also phocomelia, though his arose spontaneously rather than being the result of thalidomide, a drug given to British women in the 1950’s and 60’s to treat morning sickness.
Fraser performs a meticulous re-creation of Sealo’s act as part of Fraser’s play, “Sealo Seal Boy,” which weaves together Berent’s story with scenes from Fraser’s life as a disabled actor trying to have a career in the mainstream. Part of Berent’s act was to enact “activities of daily living” in front of a freak-show audience, including shaving, dressing, feeding himself, and (!) sawing wood.