What did you find most interesting about Daniel Flohr? His indomitable spirit! Curious – insightful – empathetic – driven – these qualities are revealed in his writing. Most diary entries “accumulate” over time, but this account was reconstructed after the fact (more like writing a book – a labor of love.)
In his journal, Flohr recaptured his impressions and even added “research” to embellish his observations – he was tenacious. It was striking to discover his sense of compassion, maybe it foreshadowed his later interest in theology.
How does this project relate to your studio practice? In my studio practice, I like to combine disparate things. After reading the text, I felt inundated with information, as a means of internalizing and encapsulating Flohr’s story, I wrote a poem.
Then, I set about collecting 18th century images to illustrate the poem. I found things like tobacco labels picturing slaves and instruction manuals for muskets, I was looking for printed images like those that Flohr might have seen in addition to iconic images that could function as “visual short hand” within the tight poetic phrasing.
To make the pages, I transferred the collected images onto heavy cotton paper by using a solvent and hand burnishing. This is a process that Robert Rauschenberg popularized in the 1970’s and it appeals to me because of its unpredictable nature (contrary to most printmaking!) I was interested in combining old and new technologies – control and happenstance – history and whimsy. Each page opens up, like an armoire to reveal something on the inside. The effect reminds me of the “call and response” used by early pastors or something you might encounter in a children’s book.
For text, I used movable letter press type, setting one letter at a time, just as it was done in Flohr’s day. This project was a fascinating way to learn about history from a new perspective and expand my vocabulary as a book artist. My book, Muskets to Ploughshares is an edition of three.