1/24/2020 Peter Durantine

Common Hour Speaker Shows Journey to ‘Finding Freedom’

From the stage in Franklin & Marshall College’s Mayser Gymnasium, artist Sonya Clark walked the audience through a history of freedom that is a theme in her work.  

From unraveling a Confederate battle flag’s fabric into piles of blue, red and white threads to seed imprints on midnight blue fabric to depict the constellation that 19th-century slaves followed in their journey to freedom in the North, Clark discussed her past and present exhibits. 

"I think art has a capacity to create community and address thorny issues head on, and to facilitate change,” the Conrad Nelson lecturer and Richard C. Von Hess artist-in-residence said during the Jan. 23 Common Hour. The event ushered in the spring semester and marked Common Hour’s 10th anniversary; the campus conversation is conducted each week classes are in session.

  • “I think art has a capacity to create community and address thorny issues head on,” says the Conrad Nelson lecturer and Richard C. Von Hess artist-in-residence, “I think art has a capacity to create community and address thorny issues head on,” says the Conrad Nelson lecturer and Richard C. Von Hess artist-in-residence, Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • Following the event, at a reception in the Phillips Museum, the campus community visited Clark's "Finding Freedom" exhibit with its night sky depicted on a ceiling-covered fabric canvass. Following the event, at a reception in the Phillips Museum, the campus community visited Clark's "Finding Freedom" exhibit with its night sky depicted on a ceiling-covered fabric canvass. Image Credit: Deb Grove
  • A student follows the constellation to the north star that helped guide slaves to freedom. A student follows the constellation to the north star that helped guide slaves to freedom. Image Credit: Deb Grove

A professor of art and the history of art at Amherst College, Clark’s latest work, created for F&M, is “Finding Freedom,” a large-scale fabric installation in the Phillips Museum of Art’s Dana Gallery that explores how slaves migrated along the Underground Railroad using the night sky.

As she directed a slide show of her exhibits that included her use of human hair to depict her mother’s and the connections DNA makes among humanity, Clark said, “Every single thing that I’m showing you is happening or has happened in the context of those who have raised me, those who have taught me – students, friends and teacher – strangers who have inspired me … and the folks who have helped me fabricate and bring ideas to fruition.” 

For more on the “Finding Freedom” exhibit, visit the Phillips Museum.

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