20 July 2015
Final Print: Earthquake
Watercolor woodblock print with stencils
26 x 38 inches (97 x 67 cm) on Gekko washi
An earthquake is caused by means of wind that be enclosed within the caves of the earth and can find no passage to break forth.
– The New Book of Knowledge (1767)
The final addition to this print is a reproduction, carved on shina plywood, of an illustration I found at American Antiquarian Society in a small 1748 book called The History of the Holy Jesus. It was used in that book to illustrate a Bible story (the second coming perhaps – I can't recall), but many references to this illustration call it an illustration of the Boston earthquake of 1727, probably the worst earthquake ever to strike New England. This re-use of illustrations for various unrelated purposes in colonial printing was very common, and printers often copied one another's illustrations, sometimes quite poorly.
I've been using history in my work for quite a while now, but my fellowship at American Antiquarian Society this past spring deepened my relationship with history even more. It was like four weeks of time travel during which I realized once again that history is something that we stand on. We are inextricably connected to it. It lives in layers under our feet, it courses through our blood, and it is present in our thoughts and conceptions of the world. Sometimes history haunts us. Sometimes history rises up seeking justice. These little Puritans can feel the quake, but are unaware of exactly what it is that's shaking their world so.