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One of the treasures in Historic New England’s collection is on display in A Usable Past: American Folk Art at the Colby College Museum of Art. “Rio de Janeiro; the Raritan; Boston, Mass.; Paris, Maine,” is an autobiographical watercolor that tells Pedro Tovookan Parris’s story.
Parris was captured in eastern Africa around the age of ten, transported as a slave across the Atlantic, and then rescued by American sailors and brought to Boston. He was taken in by the family of Virgil D. Parris, with whom he lived for the rest of his life. From left to right, Parris’s piece shows troops marching in Rio de Janeiro, where he was first taken; the U.S. frigate Raritan sailing north; the city of Boston with the State House visible; and, finally, life on the farm in Paris, Maine.
A Usable Past brings together paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by self-trained artists working in the eastern part of what is now the United States during the nineteenth century. See the exhibition at the Colby College Museum of American Art in Waterville, Maine, through January 8, 2017.