Blueprint for a Mobile and Visible Carriage
MDF painted with metal based paint, stainless steel, antique wheel, wood
Blueprint for a Mobile and Visible Carriage (2017-2018) is a commemorative work that positions the story of Black entrepreneurs and taxicab owners Lucie and Thornton Blackburn into the Canadian narrative. The Blackburns were an activist couple who used their properties in the area of Toronto (known as the Ward) to shelter many escaping the horrors of enslavement. The work reimagines the Blackburn’s 1937 cab company - The City - through a stark and simple silhouette and a narrative blueprint. The Blackburn’s taxicab was a modest yellow carriage drawn by a single horse, and is believed to have inspired the colours of the present Toronto Transit Commission vehicles.
In 1985, an archeological dig brought to light a number of objects that were buried at the site of the Thornton’s home. The blueprints present the viewer with a speculative drawing of the taxicab including objects such as a medicine bottle, shards of a common blue dinnerware, buttons from Lucie’s dress, and other everyday objects. These found objects help us to imagine how Black people negotiated the streets of Toronto and give us a window into “a different narrative of Blackness than we might be accustomed to,” as scholar Katherine McKittrick suggests.
Blueprint for a Mobile and Visible Carriage reflects upon the relationship between space, place and practices of belonging. The pronounced negative space in the sculpture is within the conversation on invisibility and erasure of Black subjectivities in Canadian history. The placement of the sculpture grounds the Blackburn’s lived experiences, the wheels, old and new, offering a reference to a number of topographies, routes and passages past and present traversed by Black folks in the quest for freedom.