Artist Vinnie Bagwell: Her Sculptures of New York’s Slaves Heal & Enlighten
Themba (Zulu name): “Faith, Hope, Trust”
Sculpture As a Tool for Teaching
Ms. Bagwell hopes that this exhibit will stimulate a desire in each of us to learn about their history — our history. “Making this artwork gives me a sense of purpose. I use sculpture as a visual language that is resonant and has the power to reach out, strike the heart, and enrich the lives of others,” she said of this project. This installation will make the world look, listen and remember the strength of our African ancestors, so we can heal the shameful legacy of their treatment.
Moreover, Vinnie “wanted to do sculptures of the Africans as people, not as abstract art.” Seeking to remove the distancing that is often applied when thinking of slavery, Ms. Bagwell chose to strip away the idea of slavery’s victims as a collective unit. These unfortunate yet triumphant individuals were just that: individuals. They were mothers, brothers, daughters, fathers, sons, and cousins.
For their portrayal, Bagwell chose to focus on the individual humanity of each person. In this way, the Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden will pay homage to the spirit of those who suffered, perished, and triumphed through the worst travesty in American history — human beings above and beyond the slave role.