Artist Cynthia Lockhart's 'Journey to Freedom' ushered in the new decade at the Taft Museum of Art. The show, which features incredibly detailed and colorful quilts Lockhart made herself, invites visitors to explore diversity in all its forms into the new year through March 15th.
Journey to Freedom tells the story of her ancestors and celebrates their lives while acknowledging their struggles along the way. The works provoke the viewer into questioning how different people perceive the meaning of freedom in this country.
We asked her several questions about herself and the show to get a better idea of what a visitor to Journey to Freedom can expect when they see it.
Cincinnati Refined: What was your inspiration for creating the pieces that are now on exhibition in Journey to Freedom?
Cynthia Lockhart: I wanted to celebrate my ancestors who were brought from Africa to America in chains in 1619, just nearly 400 years ago: from post-slavery, emancipation, reconstruction, Jim crow, the Civil Rights movement, the election of a black President to the Black Lives Matter movement. This exhibition commemorates the struggles of our journey to freedom and acknowledges these accomplishments.
In our family, we have a strong tradition of passing down oral history and stories about our culture. These stories included our accomplishments, struggles, and documentation of our slave heritage including our African roots. For most people of color in America, freedom has always had a different viewpoint. I was born in Cincinnati, however, in my teens my family would travel to Kentucky every summer to visit my grandfather. From that experience, I was immersed in the culture of the South, however, protected by a vibrant, creative, self-sufficient small black community. This past spring of 2019 I traveled to the South on a Civil Rights Heritage Tour. It was awesome. I felt like I had stepped into a living history lesson. Growing up in Cincinnati, authentic black history was not taught in the schools I attended. The tour included a city by city account of the heroic journey of African Americans, how we survived through trials and tribulations.
CR: When people see the show, is there anything specific about any or all of the pieces that you hope they notice?
CL: The message of hope, faith, struggle, resilience, perseverance, and survival have been yoked around my ancestors’ existence. Although my ancestors came to America in chains, and they endured inhumane atrocities, African Americans have made significant contributions to and success of the United States of America. I am so proud of the many accomplishments of African Americans and I honor them in this exhibition. In my artwork, the journey of life and its path continue to be a source for my inspiration. In addition, my faith is a strong influence on my art. Belief in oneself against all odds is a critical message in my artwork. It is my desire that my artwork encourages people to see endless possibilities of Hope, Joy, Love, and Victory in their own lives.
CR: What ideas or feelings do you hope visitors take away from the exhibit?
CL: For example, in the artwork titled Created to be Me, I was inspired by the United Nations Human Rights Declaration, which was ratified in 1948. The Declaration represents the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are entitled. The Declaration has 30 articles; my quilt design was motivated by article 28. “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration can be fully realized."
The visual imagery in my art represents a free spirit and celebrates the unending possibilities of the power of creativity. We are all human and have equal rights. We were born to dwell on this planet together and to contribute our talents and gifts to mankind in our own unique ways.
CR: How does it feel to be showing your art in Cincinnati, both in this show and in other institutions around town?
CL: It feels amazing! Cincinnati is a great city for the arts. I am excited every time I can exhibit my work. Art opens boundaries and provides commentary and a visual texture to the landscape of the city. Art educates, inspires, and motivates us to understand different cultures and perspectives.
CR: How would you describe Journey to Freedom in 10 words or less?
CL: Journey of Freedom is a powerful and creative message for all.
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See the exhibit for yourself at the Taft Museum of Art from now until March 15th, 2020. The address is 316 Pike Street, Downtown.