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VAST UNPEOPLED LANDS
Japanese woodblock (moku hanga)
Paper size: 21" x 29" (53.3 x 73.7 cm)
Image size: 17.5" x 26" (44.5 x 66 cm)
5 shina plywood blocks
29 hand-rubbed impressions
I used these 4 carved blocks plus one uncarved board
It feels fitting to me that I finished this print now, just in time for the harvest festival of Thanksgiving. In this invented landscape I've imagined autumn 1620 in the Connecticut River valley, just a few months before the arrival of the Mayflower some 135 miles away. The Connecticut River valley is where I live, in the city now called Northampton. In 1620 both the people and the town here were called Norwottuck, which means "in the midst of the river."
The hills I've depicted are imaginary, in the sense that no such view of the Connecticut River exists, but the yellow hills in the distance roughly outline three of the seven peaks that make up the Holyoke Range of central Massachusetts and the large orange hill in the center of the print is based on the shape of Mount Sugarloaf just up the river in Deerfield. Deerfield is where the last Indian war in Massachusetts occurred in 1704.
Photo of Mt. Sugarloaf, from TripAdvisor.com
As I described in an earlier post, the patterns on the hills are based on surviving patterns from the neighboring Iroquois and Mohawk nations (originally from upstate New York) and the constellations are imaginary, just me trying to imagine how a culture that subsisted off the land in a migratory way, both hunting and fishing and planting crops seasonally, might see the stars.
Working on this print made me feel sad and tender. I love this valley, this river, this land. The Connecticut River has sustained my family for many generations. And this same land sustained many generations of people before my ancestors ever saw it. Those native people are invisible to me in my everyday life. I felt myself calling them forth as I worked on this print.
This "We Are Pilgrims" series of prints began as an exploration of my own ancestral roots, but my European ancestors would never have survived without the assistance of the Americans who knew this land, these seasons, these animals and plants. For those native Americans I am thankful. Happy Thanksgiving.