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"Light of Freedom"Abigail DeVille

January 27, 2021

Visit our Awards page for this film’s honors and recognition.

Sculptor and installation artist Abigail DeVille reveals the ideas and inspirations behind the making of her public art commission, Light of Freedom (2020). The large sculpture of a scaffolded torch, with flames composed of dozens of blue mannequin arms, was motivated by the Black Lives Matter marches of summer 2020, when waves of demonstrators hooked arm-in-arm to rally against racial injustice amidst the threat of a global pandemic.

Recounting the influence of her fourth grade teacher, DeVille describes her continued interest in history and the active role that she believes every person has in shaping the future. Light of Freedom, installed in New York City’s Madison Square Park, draws upon layers of New York and United States history—summoning the words of Frederick Douglass and the public display of the Statue of Liberty’s hand with torch in Madison Square Park from 1876 to 1882, while commemorating the lives of Black people in North America throughout the last four centuries. Collapsing the past, our turbulent present, and her hope for a better tomorrow, DeVille asks viewers to consider the notion of freedom, which “is under continual construction and reconstruction from generation to generation,” and what role we can play individually and collectively.

More information and credits


Producer: Ian Forster. Interview: Ian Forster. Editor: Stephanie Andreou. Camera: Sean Hanley. Sound: Fivel Rothberg. Colorist: Jonah Greenstein. Sound Mix: Adam Boese. Music: Blue Dot Sessions. Additional Footage: John Mattiuzzi. Artwork Courtesy: Abigail DeVille and Madison Square Park Conservancy. Special Thanks: Brooke Kamin Rapaport, NYC Ferry, Pioneer Works, and Tom Reidy.

Extended Play is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts; and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Dawn and Chris Fleischner; the Art21 Contemporary Council; and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Abigail DeVille

Abigail DeVille was born in 1981 in New York, where she lives and works. Maintaining a long-standing interest in marginalized people and places, DeVille creates site-specific immersive installations designed to bring attention to these forgotten stories. DeVille often works with objects and materials sourced from the area surrounding the exhibition site. Though collected objects are essential to her installations, DeVille’s priority is the stories her installations can tell. DeVille’s family roots in New York go back at least two generations; her interest in the city, and her work about it, is both personal and political.

“This idea of freedom is under continual construction—and reconstruction—from generation to generation.”

Abigail DeVille

Abigail DeVille

The questions and activities included in this guide are recommendations for incorporating Art21 films featuring Abigail DeVille into your classroom.