Tar Baby vs St Sebastian, 1999
Throughout the summer of 2001, artist Michael Richards had been at work on his latest piece in a sculptural series commemorating the Tuskeegee Airmen, a segregated unit of African American World War II Army pilots. The sculpture depicted an airman on a burning meteor.
“The idea of being lifted up, enraptured, or taken up to a safe place” was central to his work. Tar Baby vs St Sebastian, a gold cast of a Tuskeegee Airman with more than a dozen miniature P-51 Mustang fighter planes piercing his torso, is a reference to the execution of the Christian martyr Saint Sebastian by arrows.
Richards was an artist-in-residence with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s World Views program and at work on the 92nd floor of the North Tower when the first plane hit. He was the only one of the residency’s artists to die on 9/11.