Flying Home with Laura Nelson

Flying Home with Laura Nelson is a two-panel work that fuses African, European, and American histories and philosophies. It discusses the late Laura Nelson, an African-American woman who, along with her teenage son, was brutally murdered by a lynch-mob in Okemah, Oklahoma on May 25, 1911.

In this work, I resurrect Laura Nelson, who still bears a noose about her neck, as a flying figure with three simultaneous identities, and intentionally create false histories about her demise – one possibility is that she escapes death and, as in African-American slave folklore, flies back “Home” to Africa. Laura Nelson is flanked by her two other identities – one is the personification of terror (the screaming figure whose jaw is unhinged) and the other is the iconic, virtuous “fattened bride” of Ibibioland, Nigeria, who is named “Mfon Abasi” (Ibibio for “in the manner of God”), a personality that connotes Laura Nelson’s innocence, and the promise of her reemergence from the seclusion of the grave. Sparrows that fly across both panels function as intermediaries between Life and Afterlife and signify Laura Nelson’s awkward position as both a living and deceased figure. All of the characters are suspended above an inscribed musical score of a funerary Slave Song titled “I’m Going Home.”

Flying Home with Laura Nelson

Flying Home with Laura Nelson is a two-panel work that fuses African, European, and American histories and philosophies. It discusses the late Laura Nelson, an African-American woman who, along with her teenage son, was brutally murdered by a lynch-mob in Okemah, Oklahoma on May 25, 1911.

 

In this work, I resurrect Laura Nelson, who still bears a noose about her neck, as a flying figure with three simultaneous identities, and intentionally create false histories about her demise – one possibility is that she escapes death and, as in African-American slave folklore, flies back “Home” to Africa. Laura Nelson is flanked by her two other identities – one is the personification of terror (the screaming figure whose jaw is unhinged) and the other is the iconic, virtuous “fattened bride” of Ibibioland, Nigeria, who is named “Mfon Abasi” (Ibibio for “in the manner of God”), a personality that connotes Laura Nelson’s innocence, and the promise of her reemergence from the seclusion of the grave. Sparrows that fly across both panels function as intermediaries between Life and Afterlife and signify Laura Nelson’s awkward position as both a living and deceased figure. All of the characters are suspended above an inscribed musical score of a funerary Slave Song titled “I’m Going Home.”