Oxford art project honors ancestors

The fabric of society is continuously unraveled and rewoven as each generation crafts its identity.

Lives are led, stories are told, and history is embellished and revised with each retelling.
Threads of fact take on lives of their own, separate worldviews that lose sight of their origins.

Sometimes it takes a gathering of divergent voices to recapture the truth, to set history straight.
That’s the work of artist Lynn Linnemeir, who describes herself as a visual mythologist.

Linnemeir is working with students, other artists and members of the community in crafting a fabric art installation, Unraveling Miss Kitty’s Cloak, which will be presented on Sunday at Old Church in Oxford.

The artwork is in conjunction with an Emory University conference on Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies, and reflects the life and legacy of Kitty Boyd, an enslaved woman who lived in Oxford and was the property of a Methodist bishop, James Osgood Andrew.

Boyd’s story is a sad one, the tale of a woman enslaved and alone, isolated from the rest of the African American community, Linnemeir said.

The project is also the story of a community.

"It’s the untold story of the African American community in Oxford, which gets overlooked as well," Linnemeir said.

The construction is massive, some 12-by-30-feet long, and includes photos and other images from the Oxford community.

It’s a collaborative project, with participants including college students, children and members of Grace United Methodist Church in Covington.

Working on the piece was much like a quilting bee, Linnemeir said. It was an enriching experience involving ages 9 to 80, with youth learning stories from their elders.

The construction is a visual history, a reflection of her work as a visual mythologist.

"I go from community to community looking at the histories," she said. "It’s about taking the stories I head while working on it."