28 June 2010

God Blesses John Alexander and Thomas Roberts, 1637



Japanese woodblock (moku hanga)
Paper size: 20.5" x 14.5" (52 x 37 cm)
Image size: 17.75" x 11.5" (29.2 x 45 cm)
6 shina plywood blocks
9 hand-rubbed impressions
Paper: Nishinouchi
Edition: 12

In 1637 two Plymouth Colony men, John Alexander and Thomas Roberts, were brought to trial and found guilty of performing ongoing homosexual acts with each other. Although by law homosexuality was punishable by death, the two received less severe punishments. (Apparently Massachusetts magistrates have always been soft on gays!) John Alexander, a free man, was whipped, burned on the shoulder with a branding iron, and banished from the colony. Thomas Roberts, an indentured servant, was whipped and returned to his master but forbidden to ever own any land within the colony.

In a way, one could say that their trial and punishment was a blessing of sorts. The court records "immortalized" the two, allowing us in the 21st century to at least know the existence as well as the names of two Puritan homosexual lovers at the founding of our nation.

I'm glad I went ahead and reprinted this piece a second time as I like it much better in green.


Helen Aldous said...

Beautiful print and inspiring and interesting story behind it.

Ellen Shipley said...

Oh much better. I'm glad you redid it.

Kim Rosen said...

This looks wonderful Annie, I like it in green too. What an interesting story. Great job

Kit said...

Oh, wonderful. I really like the colors you decided on. Your work educates as well as inspires.

Jack Alexander said...

I have some (hopefully constructive) critisism.

The hand holding the branding iron is at the wrong angle. Either the handle for the branding iron is really really short or it's impaled in the palm of the hand.

The style of the top half and background, with the high level of detail, does not suit the simple almost 'childlike' illustrations of John & Thomas. To be honest it lets the whole print down as they are the main focus right?

I'm not sure of the process you've gone through to get to this stage but it just looks like a bunch of different elements/styles mashed together and the lack of consistency really takes away from the strong story that the print represents.

The colours however are really nice, but I think John & Thomas need more difference/detail in there clothing so it's not just a big black blob of ink.

Annie B said...

Thanks everyone.

Hi Jack. I hear what you're saying about the mish-mash of styles. I often work that way, overlaying different time periods as a way of noting that the past is part of now and that now influences our view of the past. It sounds like this didn't come through to you, though, so in that way I've failed to achieve what I intended.

As for the big blob of black that represents the garments, that's actually one of my favorite things about this print. I really love how it appears that they're wearing a single robe, that it's unclear where one man ends and the other begins.

Thank you for your feedback. I'll continue to ponder what you've said.

Melody Knight Leary said...

Changing the colors made such a difference! I'm glad you left out the black text; it isn't needed to get the message across. Love the contrast of the tenderness between the two figures and the ominous "hand of God" floating above them. Very successful print and wonderful homage to John & Thomas.

Ellen Shipley said...

I like the foreshortened hand of God -- it makes it look like a fist and is very threatening. I'm very happy the scribbled insult is now portrayed as text down the side. That's the only part that disturbed me from the first print, from an esthetic pov. I too love the uni-garment effect and knowing your style, it melds just fine to me with the rest of the print. Evocative image, very powerful.

Terry said...

I really like the 'hand of God', it thrusts rudely into the scene. It says a lot.
And I'm glad you showed us your process of re-doing a print you weren't happy with. It's inspiring. Thank you, Annie. It turned out so much better.

MaRegina said...

I like everything here: the history, the print, how you showed your work... thanks a lot!

Libby Fife said...

I have been following the progress of this print (thanks to Katka at the Blue Chisel) and I am overwhelmed by what went into it. Really. Printmaking is new for me so I have only a small sense of what you have done.

With that said, I have been struggling with anything that I might add to the above discussion but really wanted to say something. I too appreciated the mix of styles and ideas as well as the blending of the two mens' coats. I thought that last part to be particularly effective as it was the first thing that I noticed.

The text must have been disturbing to work with; I can't imagine being the object of such hatred. Thank you for such a thought provoking piece.

jodi said...

Yes! This is much, much better. The remaining words are more ominous and oppressive without the scrawled message. The green really gives a sense of that eerie yellow light that happens right before the sky opens up into a storm.

I too like the black blob; it serves to unify these men in the face of their oppression while at the same time giving a nod to that oppression, the erasing of so much of their humanity by hateful Puritan values.