By NAN ET Editor
News Americas, RALEIGH, NC, Mar. 4, 2016: It’s been over 14 years since Jamaican-born artist and sculptor Michael Richards’ life was suddenly snuffed out by terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center in New York City. But today, a piece that was almost an eerie foretelling of the artist’s death lives on for all to see at the North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA).
Richards’ Tar Baby vs. Saint Sebastian 1999 has found a home in the permanent collection of the Modern and Contemporary Galleries at NCMA as a commemoration of the artist’s life and talents and a memorial, of sorts, for 9/11.
The piece was cast from the artist’s own body and represents a gold-painted airman penetrated on all sides by small airplanes, reminiscent of the arrows shot at St. Sebastian, an early Christian martyr and saint.
The title of the work, with its double reference to the saint and a southern folktale of entrapment, pays tribute to the Tuskegee pilots -African-American pilots whose heroic contributions to World War II – all who suffer intolerance and unfairness. The piece is a body cast in resin and fiberglass, painted, and supported by steel shaft, with airplanes cast in resin and fiberglass, painted, and attached by steel bolts.
It commemorates the Tuskegee Airmen, African-American pilots whose heroic contributions to World War II were recognized only in the past few decades.
It is on loan from the estate of the artist, who during his tragically short career, frequently addressed issues of social injustice, creating stunning sculptures that criticize oppression.
Richards’ studio was on the ninety-second floor of Tower One when the 9/11 terrorist attack occurred. Tar Baby vs. Saint Sebastian, too, was feared lost in the wreckage, as it was not found in the remains of the artist’s studio, or at his home. It was only revealed later to be stored in a relative’s garage outside of New York City.
Richards was born in Jamaica and earned his master’s at New York University. He was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1996 and showed his work there in “Passages” in 1999. He was only 37 years old when he died.