22 June 2009
American Bible Story - Final Print
AMERICAN BIBLE STORY
Japanese woodblock (moku hanga)
Paper size: 14.75" x 16" (37.5 x 40.6 cm)
Image size: 11.625" x 13.75" (29.5 x 34.9 cm)
5 shina plywood blocks
14 hand-rubbed impressions
I've been thinking for a long time about the way that present-day Americans of every political persuasion call upon "the founding fathers" to justify all sorts of theories about what America is and how Americans should behave. This quoting of early colonists has always reminded me of the practice of quoting the Bible to add legitimacy and authority to one's own ideas and feelings. Then, reading Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's narrative poem about John and Priscilla Alden, The Courtship of Miles Standish (1858), I noticed that Longfellow alluded to Bible love stories -- Ruth and Boaz, Rebecca and Isaac -- so I started to work with the idea that the early European settlers of America have become a kind of American Bible story.
The stories I included are pretty obvious -- Noah's ark, Adam and Eve, the pillar of clouds, the city on a hill. I also threw in a nod to Utamaro and his shunga prints. I had very much wanted the serpent to be saying "join or die" as it says in the original woodcut by Benjamin Franklin, but in my research I discovered that there's an artist named Justine Lai who is making extensive use of that phrase in her work. Lai is making a series of paintings that depict her having sex with each of the 44 presidents of the United States. I decided to omit the "join or die" text in my piece so as not to jump on that bandwagon.
Here's how the print looked before I added the keyblock:
And here are the color blocks as they appear after printing: