On the Friday before Joe Biden’s electoral victory was officially announced, I had a late afternoon appointment near Madison Square Park. It was already twilight when I exited onto Fifth Avenue and 25th Street and I decided to walk home to take advantage of an unseasonably-warm evening and what I think of as the romantic atmosphere imparted by the newly-restored standard time. Darkness at night: what a concept. As I crossed Broadway I noticed a new piece of public art in the park which resembles the Statue of Liberty’s torch, entitled Light of Freedom. New York native Abigail Deville is the artist. I snapped a few photos and then continued on my way.
This past Saturday, I had the chance to check out Light of Freedom in the daylight, where it’s easier to see that the torch’s flame is comprised of disembodied mannequin arms; something which I find very appealing.
Let’s zoom-in for a closer look.
Here’s is an excerpt from Madison Square Park Conservancy’s statement on the piece:
Light of Freedom carries many cogent symbols. DeVille has filled a torch — referring to the Statue of Liberty’s hand holding a torch, which was on view in Madison Square Park from 1876 to 1882 — with a timeworn bell, a herald of freedom, and with the arms of mannequins, beseeching viewers. The scaffold, which prevents access physically and metaphorically, recalls a work site, an insistent image on the urban landscape. But the scaffold is golden, summoning the glory of labor and the luminosity in the struggle that can lead to change. Formative to Light of Freedom are the words of the abolitionist, author, and statesman Frederick Douglass, who proclaimed in an 1857 speech delivered in Canandaigua, New York: “If there is no struggle there is no progress.” The torch refers to the light of democracy and its foundation in ancient systems of government by citizens.
DeVille has described working on this piece: “In my research, I have found that the first Blacks to be brought to New York City were eleven Angolans in 1626. That makes people of African descent the second-oldest group of settlers in New Amsterdam, after the Dutch. Unfortunately, history has erased the contributions and victories of this group. I want to make something that could honor their lives and question what it means to be a New Yorker, past, present, and future.”
Light of Freedom will be on Exhibit in Madison Square Park Through January 31st, 2021, so see it while you can!