What did you find most interesting about Daniel Flohr? For a young man born in the 18th century and raised in modest circumstances in the Northern European countryside, Flohr was remarkably adventurous and curious about the larger world. I admire his pluck in taking off for the New World, crossing the ocean to spend four dangerous and uncomfortable years as a foot soldier. His writings reveal his compassionate view of the slaves, how they lived and how they were treated. He was also very intrigued by the customs and appearance of the Native Americans, and found much to admire in their dancing and music-making. I am fascinated that he managed to create such a richly detailed, exquisitely handwritten and hand-illustrated account of his time on this continent. I find it oddly touching that he abandoned his study of medicine in Paris and returned to our fledgling, rough-hewn country. Here he became a father (adoptive), husband, and minister and lived well into the 19th century. Georg Daniel Flohr was clearly a man who thought for himself, and though not an artist, chose to make a beautiful book to memorialize his experiences.
How does this project relate to your studio practice? I have worked with old books and found papers for many years. Books have long served as inspiration and as studio material, so this project fits right into my usual way of working. Flohr used the tools at his disposal – paper, ink, quill pen – to record his travels to this country. When I visited Strasbourg in 1985 (thanks to a Boston/Strasbourg Sister City artist travel grant), I used the tools I had: 35 millimeter camera, slide film, my sketchbook/diary. In response to the Ex Libris invitation, I used cyanotype to combine my 1985 images and text with maps from Baedeker’s Au Bords du Rhin (1906). That particular copy had traveled to Strasbourg in 1909 with its original owner, who used it to record his own notes and observations. I used two 20th century travel diaries/guides (mine and someone else’s) to make a 21st century artist book…in response to an 18th century travel account!