This is Alison Saar’s Nocturne Navigator, my favorite piece at the Columbus Museum of Art. I believe Saar finished this work in 1998, and I have heard tell that through this creation, she was aiming to honor the spirit of those escaped and emancipated slaves who navigated northward around and during the Civil War era. I can see this. This makes sense to me. But when I first saw Nocturne Navigator, she showed me something different.
Alison Saar’s Nocturne Navigator at the Columbus Museum of Arts
Hands open and close, nostrils flare, releasing the vacant and vast
Deathless vacuum that blankets The Universe in royal cloth.
She asks Time to take its place as God.
It moves The Wheel.
Her quiescent hands capture It, and unflinching, she draws It to her
and becomes God to God.
Blind, Deaf, Mute
The Universe wanders within Herself.
Unaware of Herself.
What is She searching for?
Orbs spinning into the pierced indigo void,
Little dynamos powering Her movement through Herself.
She peers into the hollow womb that is the sky,
Her own sky,
She is the sky.
She navigates Nothingness,
Her arms outstretched, inviting a guide.
She is rudderless and spinning.
In her liquid search She lights the way
And gives birth.
Supplication to your immortal God.
Hands pray to the Cosmos,
Order and harmony.
It will all disappear into the nothing that it came from.
The ocean that we all navigate.
Calling down the gods,
The stars that burst forth from the underpinnings of your skirt have hovered beneath that heavy darkness.
Inhale the vaporous dust.
Exhale the billowing winds that move the stars and tides while gods peer into the fishbowl,
Watching them settle calmly into orbit around themselves.
Never knowing they aren’t the center.
You wisely keep them contained within the hem of the sky, where they create.
Trapped in a place outside of which,
There is no time.