Friday, July 26, 2013

"Worn Road" by J. J. Lankes

I'm in Williamsburg, Virginia and stumbled on a few woodcuts by J. J. Lankes in a used and rare book store. Lankes was an American printmaker associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement and influential in establishing woodcuts as a legitimate fine art medium.

This isn't one of the images I saw in the book store today, but I decided to write about it because it spoke to me the most about what I've been noticing while being here in Virginia. This being a region of the country known for English settlement and the founding of the United States, I keep noticing the trees, the roll of the land, the billowing clouds up in the sky. Basically the grandeur, the beauty, and the threat of nature. We've had both warm days full of sunshine and storms with thunder and lightning this week, which heightens my awareness of the natural presence. My thoughts drift to thinking about the Native Americans who had long ago come to know the land and how to survive, contrasted with the settlers who had to learn (and quite often perished in their attempts.) Knowing the last few centuries of history of this land, the air somehow feels thick, and the ground feels more dense.

To get back to Lankes's print above, I love how the horizon cuts at meandering angle. I can imagine feeling jostled and bumped as I ride over this road. I can feel the wind pushing the big, puffy clouds across the sky. I love how the trees are darker and bigger than the human structures, and even the big, chunky leaves of plants in the foreground seem to suggest a persistence and strength of flora. I feel the people here are somewhat like fleas on a dog. We can survive happily, but only with a little luck and at the discretion of that on which we ride. If we spread too much, try to take over, we're asking for trouble.

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