High Museum of Art
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High Museum of Art

“Trails and Trials” by Roberto Lugo: October Collection Highlight

Taking inspiration from a vase commemorating the 1876 United States Centennial, Lugo’s 2016 vase is an ode to Atlanta’s history.

By Eva Berlin, Digital Content Specialist, High Museum of Art

Video by Ashley Wills

In 2016, the High commissioned Philadelphia ceramic artist, social activist, and educator Roberto Lugo to create Trails and Trials: A Century’s Journey to a Dream, a vase depicting important moments in Atlanta history.

Lugo’s work was inspired by The Century Vase, a monumental porcelain piece Karl Müller designed for the 1876 United States Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Lugo references the historical vase’s form and motifs, including its decorative background of oak leaves. In contrast to the 1876 vase, which presented a whitewashed and wholly positive view of U.S. history, Lugo’s piece offers an honest view of Atlanta’s history — including both its tragedies and its triumphs.

In his vase, Lugo explores Atlanta’s role in civil rights, social justice, and hip-hop and hopes it will be a catalyst for conversations about what’s happening in our community today. Martin Luther King Jr., Jimmy Carter, Leo Frank, and André 3000 are just a few of the figures featured on the vase.

Highly adorned ceramic vase commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the United States.
Roberto Lugo working on a ceramic piece while wearing a star-spangled head bandana.
The Century Vase, 1876, porcelain with paint and gilt decoration, Karl L. H. Müller, designer, Union Porcelain Works, maker. Artist Roberto Lugo.

Lugo said, “[Atlanta] has built its identity on the back of its burden, not by ensconcing it but by enlightening it. This notion of turning tragedy to triumph is what I see when I look at Atlanta’s history, and I feel a close connection to the city with my own journey as a person of color and as an artist.”

Pictorial vase by Roberto Lugo featuring figures and scenes symbolic of Atlanta’s history.
Trails and Trials: A Century’s Journey to a Dream, 2016–2017, porcelain, china paint, and gold luster, Roberto Lugo (American, born 1981), designer and maker.

This work is one of over 18,000 in our rotating collection. They’re all here for you!

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