Sanford Biggers (American, born 1970), Semaphore, 2019, antique quilt, birch plywood, and gold leaf. The Douglas J. and Victoria Galloway Holmen Endowment Fund, 2020.45

Mia marks Black History Month with Sanford Biggers sculpture

Sanford Biggers’ Semaphore sculpture is now on view in Mia’s first-floor lobby. Made in 2019 and acquired by Mia the following year, the installation is part of the museum’s Black History Month celebration honoring the work of artists who interpret Black American stories through creative expression.

Biggers, a Los Angeles native who has lived and worked in New York for the past 25 years, began working with salvaged fragments of antique quilts in 2009, when he was commissioned to create a sculpture for Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. The historic church was once a stop on the Underground Railroad, and Biggers was moved by the idea that quilts may have been displayed at these sites as coded devices, signposts guiding enslaved people along the path to freedom. Quilt assemblages like Semaphore have been an important element of his work ever since, their forms derived from the quilt patterns to reveal what Biggers has called “sacred geometry.”