My Great Migration
This triptych is the result of creative research into the Great Migration, the historic movement of Black Americans from the rural South to other parts of the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Made of digital images printed onto transparencies and mounted on three mirrors, this work features Burlington Rail maps depicting the path and means that many of the migrants used to leave the South, collaged with infographics outlining the numbers of lynchings between 1920 and 1940, state by state. It was these lynchings, as well as the general hardship that Blacks suffered in the Jim Crow South, that was the impetus for many to leave, creating what was to become the largest migration in world history.
Unifying these three mirrors is a monarch butterfly. Being a creature that knows no borders, the monarch butterfly has historically served as a symbol of immigrant rights. I use the image of the butterfly as a symbol of allyship as well as a way to reframe our understanding of the Black experience in this country.
This butterfly spans across the three colors of the Pan-African flag. The movement of Black people throughout the world is not just the result of the transatlantic slave trade, but also one that is voluntary and driven by dreams of a better life.
The three mirrors offer a way for each of us to see ourselves as part of the artwork: as migrants or the descendant of people who were nomadic, or among those who left one home to arrive at another. The black center mirror was intentionally broken in two places to create a web of glass fragments that multiplies one’s image across an array of shards.
My Great Migration is not static and will change over time. Throughout its life as an artwork, the cracks will continue to spread along the mirror’s surface following the physics of tension along points of least resistance.
This triptych was escheated at the de Young Museum and Dream Farms.