Sanford Biggers has gained international prominence over the last decade with a body of work that investigates the themes of identity, race, African-American history, and spirituality. Quilt #12 is part of his Constellations Series that feature antique quilts that Biggers has painted on. Stars and star constellations are motifs that figure prominently in this series. These are references to the Abolitionist Harriet Tubman and other Underground Railroad conductors of the 19th century who often used the stars to navigate from slavery to freedom, often moving from South to North under the cover of darkness. Tubman is credited with leading dozens of slaves to freedom using the North Star as her guide during her perilous night journeys.
Biggers also includes the Buddhist symbol of the lotus flower, here composed by the repetition of a historical slave ship diagram, a symbol of hope constructed out of an image of oppression and degradation. He has also added dance notations symbolizing both the trek along the Underground Railroad as well as the contributions of African-Americans to popular culture. Many of the quilts used in this series were donated to Biggers by the descendant of slave owners, adding a poignant historical echo to the work.
Image: Codex:Quilt #12 (from the Constellation Series)