July 4, 2022

America the Beautiful

         I know there are many people who are finding it a little difficult to “celebrate freedom” today when half of the people in this nation have just had federal protection stripped away from their right to personal bodily liberty.  I feel that, too, but to me rather than refusing to celebrate, this is all the more reason to celebrate the good things, which are why we need to keep working as hard as we can to help the country we love live up to its best possible ideals.  This is my homeland, land that I love, and so today I’m celebrating with block prints illustrating what perhaps should have been our national anthem: a poem written by Katharine Lee Bates usually called “America the Beautiful.”  The version we sing is her 1911 revision.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

        The spacious skies are depicted by Frances H. Gearhart (USA, 1869-1958), about whom you can learn a bit more in a previous post.  This sky has a wonderful subtlety of color, with multiple blocks each with washes and gradations of color.  Gearhart’s skies make we wish I could fly!
        For amber waves of grain I decided to go with a close-up for variety, and I offer this woodcut of a cornfield by Jacques Hnizdovsky (Ukraine/USA, 1915-1985), another artist you can revisit in a prior post.  Okay, I grant you, this piece has neither amber nor waves, but it does capture, as Hnizdovsky’s work always does, the astonishing geometry in organic things.  Certainly this field is abundant, and it reminds me just how much I love fresh corn on the cob.
        Purple mountains’ majesties were easy to find, being a very popular subject for artists!  I had a tough time deciding, but in the end I went with a view of mountains that isn’t even purple.  (After all, this blog is called “Black & White” for a reason.)  This one is by Tom Killion (USA) who is primarily known for his Japanese style printmaking.  The precision in all the little trees is impressive, but I particularly love the white peaks against the clouds that seem to be rushing across the night sky.
        The fruited plain made me think of an orchard, and I’ve chosen this one by Linanne Armstrong (USA).  There’s drama and interest in the pattern of shadows across the ground between the straight rows of trees, but I also like the pop of color in the fruit.  Plus one apple sits on the ground, showing us that this fruit is ripe and ready to pick - more of that abundance that we can truly enjoy only when we make sure it’s available to everyone.
        And finally, a shining sea, this one on my coast of the USA, the east.  It’s by Linda Mahoney (USA), and I particularly like the way she uses the Japanese moku hanga technique, but keeps her carving simple and a little rougher than in traditional Japanese blocks.  I also appreciate that she tells us that this piece was made with 4 blocks and 8 pressings.  This surging tide is sure to be cold, so I think I’ll stick to a walk along the beach!
        This Fourth of July I urge all citizens and residents of the United States to take a moment to celebrate how beautiful this land is, and how precious are the dreams of its people, so that we don’t let frustration and cynicism blunt the love that gives us a reason to keep moving forward, one step at a time.

[Pictures: Clearing, color woodblock print by Frances H. Gearhart, undated (Image from Dalton’s);

Corn, woodcut by Jacques Hnizdovsky, 1971 (Image from WorthPoint);

Lembert Dome, Tuolumne Meadows, wood block print by Tom Killion, 2000 (Image from TomKillion.com);

Afternoon in the Orchard, linocut by Linnane Armstrong, 2011 (Image from Whidbey Life Magazine);

Coast Guard Beach, Spring Tide, wood block print by Linda Mahoney, 2021 (Image from LMahoneyPrints.com).]


Kristin said...

I always find it impossible to celebrate as the police keep shooting my people.
But I agree it's a beautiful land. I especially like the first print you shared here.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

((Kristin)) Freedom sure hasn't ever been equally applied here. I'm profoundly sorry for that, and cling to the hope that we can change that, crowning what is good about this land with brotherhood (and sisterhood, and siblinghood!)