by Dale Ricardo Shields
Artist’s Statement ~ “My pursuit of artistic excellence is grounded in my desire to use sculpture as a visual language that is resonant and has the power to reach out, strike the heart, and enrich the lives of others. Anchored in realism, my style is defined by portraiture–capture in bronze or bronze resin–which provides insight into human character and shows a precise articulation of the human spirit. My subjects are meant to be engaged to invite memories of experiences and feelings. Each character is designed to remind viewers that artistry is a powerful, useful tool of social transformation; one capable of condensing our thoughts, distilling our minds, and renewing our hopes and aspirations.” – Vinnie Bagwell
Vinnie Bagwell was born in Yonkers, New York, and grew up in the Town of Greenburgh in Westchester County. She displayed a remarkable gift for drawing at an early age and developed a passion for painting in high school. A Morgan State University alumna, Vinnie is an untutored artist and began sculpting in 1993.
Vinnie has the rare ability to cross over between illustration, graphic design, painting and sculpture. Her portraits display immense spirit and verisimilitude and have souls which grandly speak for themselves. She has powers of observation and an innate understanding of proportion.
Currently, Vinnie Bagwell is leading the conception and development of “The Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden”–an urban-heritage public-art project for the City of Yonkers, New York, to commemorate the legacy of the first enslaved Africans to be manumitted by law in the United States, 64 years before the Emancipation Proclamation.
Vinnie Bagwell’s first commission: “The First Lady of Jazz Ella Fitzgerald” was commissioned by the City of Yonkers in 1996. It is the first sculpture of a contemporary African-American woman to be commissioned by a municipality in the United States. In 2018, a 7’ bronze of Hartford educator, Walter “Doc” Hurley–commissioned by the State of Connecticut–is the first public artwork of a contemporary African American in the State of Connecticut and she created a life-sized sculpture of music icon Marvin Gaye, commissioned by the District of Columbia Department of General Services, for the new Marvin Gaye Recreation Center in NE DC.
Vinnie created “Liberté”, a 22”h bronze, to exhibit in the inaugural, year-long “Road to Equality: The 1961 Freedom Rides” exhibition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides at the new Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery in 2011.
Other commissions include, “The Man in the Arena” ©2015, a three-quarter, life-sized bust of President Theodore Roosevelt, commissioned by the DC Government Department of General Services for the Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, DC, “Legacies” ©2010 at Chickasaw Heritage Park to honor the Chickasaw Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanic Americans, commissioned by the City of Memphis, TN, and “Frederick Douglass Circle” ©2008, commissioned by Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. A 24”-high sculpture of “Frederick Douglass Circle” was Vinnie’s 2004 finalist submission for the Frederick Douglass Circle Public-Art Competition for Central Park NW, in New York City. The Highland Beach Historical Society in Maryland purchased it for the centerpiece for the Frederick Douglass Museum and Cultural Center.
Vinnie co-authored a book titled “A Study of African-American Life in Yonkers From the Turn of the Century” with Harold A. Esannason in 1992. In the mid-90s, many followed her compelling articles about the diversity of Yonkers’ organizations, businesses and cultural events in her weekly column for the Herald Statesman/Gannett Suburban Newspapers. Presently, she writes for The Harlem Times.
Vinnie is passionate about her work and takes responsibility for outreach efforts to engage the community. Her experience includes hosting community forums, historical symposiums, artist talks, and workshops; curating exhibitions; creating websites and managing social media platforms to enable community participation and the exchange of ideas worldwide. With a base of nearly 10,000 facebook “friends”, “fans” and “followers”, such activity enables her to engage viewers who may not normally have the opportunity to see the daily creation of sculpture and public art. Vinnie continues to pursue public art and funding streams to realize her vision for the Enslaved Africans’ Rain Garden.