09 January 2010

10 Little 9 Little Indians - Final Print



Japanese woodblock (moku hanga)
Paper size: 15" x 11" (38 x 28 cm)
Image size: 13" x 10" (33 x 25.5 cm)
6 shina plywood blocks
16 hand-rubbed impressions
Paper: Nishinouchi
Edition: 25 (for the Print Portfolio "10") plus 5 Artist's Proofs

In 1634, John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote these words to a friend in England regarding the epidemics that had wiped out nearly 90% of the native population of New England:
"But for the natives in these parts, God hath so pursued them, as for 300 miles space the greatest part of them are swept away by the small pox which still continues among them. So as God hath thereby cleared our title to this place those who remain in these parts, being in all not 50, have put themselves under our protection." (emphasis mine)

The figure in the center of my print is taken directly from the 17th century seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.


The Indian holds his arrow facing downward in a gesture of peace and yes, coming out of the mouth of the Indian are the words "Come Over and Help Us." This was the Puritan vision: an American Eden, ripe for the taking and full of pagan natives eagerly awaiting the good news of the gospel. Of course it was not the gospel that most affected the natives, but diseases and the colonizing force of boatloads of newcomers staking out land claims.

One need only contemplate Vice President Dick Cheney's 2004 statement that U.S. forces would be "greeted as liberators" by the Iraqis to see that the "Come Over and Help Us" vision of our founding fathers still undergirds our actions in the world. It's worth noting too that the Indian whom the English came and helped still holds his downward facing arrow on the 2010 Seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, although he no longer speaks.


In my re-creation of the engraved 17th century seal, I deleted the outer circle, letting the red smallpox virus take its place, and I enlarged the words to break out of the circle. Once I had carved the figure I realized that I would have trouble printing it moku hanga style -- that the amount of water required would cause the wood to swell and close up the tiny white areas.


So I used Akua intaglio ink and a small roller instead. I masked off the area, since I'm not very practiced and skilled with a roller. I then used a baren to take the impression and am pleased with how that worked out.


As I mentioned earlier, this print will be part of the portfolio "10." I'll show you the other prints when I receive my set!


Carol Berryhill said...

Beautifully considered and realized as always. The 17th state seal is something I hadn't seen before. It tells so much of the mindset. Such a shameful and tragic part of our history.

Bette Norcross Wappner -- said...

Fantastic work! The research is very interesting, too.

heliotrope said...

Annie, I have watched this piece unfold...it is really amazing. thanks for letting me in to your process. Be well.

Andrew Stone said...

Thanks for producing another thoughtful work, Annie. Nice work with the brayer.

The role of disease and plague in shaping history has taken it's toll on both sides of the Atlantic. Hans Zinsser's 1935 book "Rats, Lice and History" a "biography of typhus" posits that it was the sequential epidemics of plague and a smallpox-like epidemic that finished off the Roman empire between the years 500 and 800. In Rome alone 2000 people a day were dying in 189 AD from a horrific epidemic brought back by soldiers from elsewhere in Empire--imagine that in NYC today where one death of West Nile Virus several years ago caused such panic and upheaval. The unforseen consequenses of our actions can be historic. Our arrival in this country unleased epidemics that continue today.

Melissa West said...

Another wonderful and interesting piece. Thanks for sharing your research. I enjoy following your thought process and the work as it unfolds.

Leslie Moore said...

Another fabulous work unfolds that is both artistic and intelligent. Thank you for sharing your fascinating process.

Katka said...

Another marvelous print and another great story told. I too really enjoy reading about your process.

starkeyart said...

Who would have thought a virus could be so lovely? Great print. The seal in the center - perfect!

Sue said...

I, too love the way your prints look good as well as unfold a story.