Artist Vinnie Bagwell: Her Sculptures of New York’s Slaves Heal & Enlighten

August 4, 2011  |  

Bagwell’s abilities led her to co-found the Yonkers community group Art On Main Street in her home town. It was likely this dedication to service that led to her selection by the city council to create the exhibit on enslaved Africans intended for Philipse Manor Hall in 2009. After a few brainstorming sessions with local officials, it was decided that a rain garden would be a great ecological addition to downtown Yonkers, and serve as a beautiful display space for the works.

Forging the Path to the Garden

The figures have been completed and cast in bronze at one-third of the size intended for the finished display. As a tribute to their African customs, Ms. Bagwell has affectionately given each of the sculptures an African name originating from a different country. The sculpture, “I’Satta” — of a young African woman with a basket on her head — has a Liberian name meaning “My soul looks back lest I forget.” Her stance encompasses her ancestral essence mixed with the survival abilities honed in her new world.

Bagwell sees these sculptures as “capable of condensing our thoughts, distilling our minds, and renewing our hopes and aspirations.”

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