The Memoirs of Erma Hayman
By Vinnie Bagwell, 2022
I am a sculptor who preserves African-American history by creating art for public places. I am passionate about being a steward of this nation’s memory because storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to preserve history for people of color. My artwork elevates the culture of marginalized people and balances the American narrative.
The Memoirs of Erma Hayman is exemplary of my style, which is defined by candid portraiture in narrative bas-relief techniques that are used in non-traditional ways. Like an old photograph, the details of my work will hold the eye and inform the viewer as they find themselves sensing the spirit of Erma Hayman. My work is meant to be engaging.
I trust this installation will become an eye-consuming destination that helps to preserve the Hayman family’s spirit, Erma Hayman’s dreams for her children, and her love for her community. Its gravitas will be a means by which to sharpen memories, educate, inspire, and advocate for the ongoing fight for equity.
About Vinnie Bagwell
Vinnie Bagwell is an American sculptor. A representational-figurative artist, Vinnie uses traditional bas-relief techniques as visual narratives to expand her storytelling. She casts in bronze and bronze resin. She has won numerous public art commissions and awards around the United States. She was born in Yonkers, New York and grew up in the Town of Greenburgh. She displayed a remarkable gift for drawing at an early age and developed a passion for painting in high school. A Morgan State University alumna, Vinnie is an untutored artist and began sculpting in 1993.
Vinnie Bagwell co-authored a book titled “A Study of African-American Life in Yonkers From the Turn of the Century” with Harold A. Esannason in 1992. In the mid-90s, many followed her compelling articles in her weekly column for Gannett Suburban Newspapers/The Herald Statesman. She was also a contributing writer for The Harlem Times.
Vinnie Bagwell is credited with reframing public art to include historic Black images. Her first public artwork, “The First Lady of Jazz” at the Yonkers Metro-North/Amtrak train station was commissioned by the City of Yonkers. It is the first public artwork of a contemporary African-American woman to be commissioned by a municipality in the United States. “Walter ‘Doc’ Hurley”, a 7’ bronze of a Hartford local legend is the first public artwork of a contemporary African American in the State of Connecticut.
Vinnie Bagwell recently completed “The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden”, an urban-heritage public-art project featuring five life-sized bronzes, for the City of Yonkers, to commemorate the legacy of the first enslaved Africans to be manumitted by law in the United States, 64 years before the Emancipation Proclamation. She will also begin creating “Victory...” an 18’ angel outside New York City’s Central Park on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street. In 2020, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation commissioned the 7’ “Sojourner Truth” to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the Women’s Suffrage Movement for the Walkway Over the Hudson in Highland.
The District of Columbia Department of General Services commissioned “What’s Going On!”, music-icon Marvin Gaye, “The Man in the Arena” (Theodore Roosevelt), “Contraband”, and “The Immortals”. The City of Memphis commissioned “Legacies” at Chickasaw Heritage Park, and Hofstra University commissioned “Frederick Douglass Circle”, the 24” h. maquette is the centerpiece for the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center in Highland Beach, MD. Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson sought Vinnie Bagwell out to create the piano artwork for August Wilson’s play, “The Piano Lesson” for the on-Broadway Signature Theatre in New York City. “Liberté”, a 22” h. bronze was exhibited in the inaugural, year-long exhibition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides at the new Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery. The creative genius of Vinnie Bagwell’s work gives voice to our stories and meaning to our legacies.