As I post this, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art has Johnny Coleman’s Flight: Requiem for Lee Howard Dobbins on display. The piece (my daughter’s favorite) is in a dimly lit room. The smell of century old (barn) wood fills the space. Rocks cover the floor while the natural sounds of crickets and the outdoors, along with faint conversations and the soothing resonance of a person humming tickle the ears. The artist writes about his work,
“I have composed this interior landscape to invoke the memory of an enslaved child, Lee Howard Dobbins as a means of acknowledging him as more than a symbolic gesture of opposition to the institution of slavery. In 1853, this child, accompanied by his adopted mother and seven of her children, fled Northern Kentucky, crossed the Ohio River, and traveled north intent on reaching Canada. However, the boy became too sick to continue the journey, and it was necessary to leave him in the care of a family in Oberlin, Ohio; with the intention of rejoining the family in Canada upon his recovery. Lee Howard Dobbins died at four years of age in Oberlin two weeks later… My intention is to speak Lee Howard Dobbins back into history; to connect him to us, to acknowledge his humanity, and to mark his continued presence in Oberlin as evidence of his flight toward the possibility of a future.”
If you’re in the Fort Wayne area sometime within the next year or so, I highly recommend experiencing this piece in person.
Thanks, Mr. Coleman for speaking to my daughter through your art.
© 2013 Tyrel Bramwell