Alison Saar (American, born 1956)
1998. Oil on canvas, 144". 1998.005
Commissioned by the Columbus Museum of Art, Nocturne Navigator commemorates the Underground Railroad, on which Columbus, Ohio, was one of the stops. The sculpture portrays the spirit of the journey by the slaves on their way north to freedom. Her skirt represents the constellations of stars in the sky—including the Big Dipper, or Drinking Gourd—that guided the slaves. The upheld arms are expressive of the thankful celebrations of both those who reached freedom and those whose open arms welcomed them along the way. The monumental size of the figure is meant to symbolize the vastness of the heavens, the enormity of the oppression of slavery, the courage required of the fugitives, and the generosity of those who aided them.