You are Needed and This is Yours
Critical explorations of the vernacular history of printmaking oftentimes reveal a propagandistic function bound up in the production processes. Ranging from chromo-lithographs and broadsides to ornamental map cartouches and jar labels, printed ephemera use graphic multiples to promote anything from services of convenience to ownership of products and lordship over territories, conventionally reinforcing a certain national character that helps viewers and consumers identify with some sort of idealized proposal: “This is special”, “This is yours”, “This is just/right/moral.” These visual histories persist in the form of vintage reproductions because they are remarkably effective at evoking a nostalgic vision of North America’s past - one that is easily digestible by a white male Christian majority, and is therefore perpetually reproduced in one contemporary political or commercial iteration after another. Revisiting the forms and words of the past can either be a wasteful exercise in nostalgia, or it can jog cultural producers and viewers alike into a fresh look at enduring, but questionable, ideas. As a practicing artist, printmaker and studio instructor, my interest in these issues and artifacts aims to induce uncomfortable critical thinking around the consequences of telling oversimplified stories in place of facing genuinely complicated realities. A significant intersection exists between my research and studio output, which concerns itself with animal and machine relations: the steer and the plow, the soldier and the gun, sexuality and politics. Invoking the vernacular history of printmaking, much of my work quotes authoritative strategies of historical monuments, propaganda posters, political speeches, treaties, and other government documents from North America and Europe. Such strategies endeavour to point critically to both the violent and the bucolic – the guns, wars, tractors and engines of industry, as well as the language of national pride grafted on to principles of duty, sacrifice, and honour, providing insight into how extant visual records surrounding Western historical authority might be retooled as its own contemporary critical device. More broadly speaking, my practice explores and utilizes textual artifacts from North American and European collective pasts, approaching them as residue of white Anglo-Saxon patriarchy and uses them as the fuel to propel critical production processes and analysis.