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O You Daughters of the West!
O You Daughters of the West! (2021) Texts by Donna Thomas, Mary Hunter Austin, Ada Diefendorf Bass, Walt Whitman. 16 accordion pages. 12.5 x 9 inches. $2,800
Accordion binding, front and back covers dark brown goat leather, watercolor painting inset in cut-out window and 2 leather onlays on front cover.
Accordion made using multiple colored sheets of paper (handmade by Peter Thomas) cut and sewn together to resemble the rock layers of the Grand Canyon, stitched together with colored thread before folding. Text, maps and compass rose are hand painted on accordion. There are 8 watercolors, painted plein air in the Grand Canyon, stitched to the accordion, and 16 cut paper illustrations glued to the accordion.
Clamshell box, Gold cloth covers, yellow Oasis leather spine, ocher handmade paper sides, handmade paper interior, paper label with title and paper cut plants on front cover
This book was made after a week-long backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon. It was the beauty of the canyon that shaped the poem I wrote, and inspired the layout and structure of this book. In it, I have paired paintings I made while on a multi-day backpacking trip in the canyon with quotes that illustrate a few ways nature, when we are immersed in it, shapes our lives and experiences. The text paper is cut and folded to recreate the geologic layers of the canyon, and the quotes the layers of challenge that nature presents in the harsh conditions in the canyon. I begin the text in the book with a quote from Walt Whitman, a short segment from his “Song of Myself,” where he acknowledges the strength of women united, and honors women’s’ pioneering spirit. I then fill the rest of the pages with my own poem and quotes from the writing of Ada Bass and Mary Austin. Ada Diefendorf Bass and her husband William Bass ran one of the first tourist operations in the Grand Canyon starting in the 1880s. She wrote in her diary of the struggles she faced every day trying to find wood and water, trying to stay warm and feed her family. The bitter environment shaped her life in the canyon, and it wasn’t until the end of her life that she expressed her love for the beauty of the place. Mary Hunter Austin attributes this poem to an Ojibwe song. This tribe was forced from their homeland in the Great Lakes area to Kansas and then further into the “strange land” of the Southwest. Even with the sadness in the song, there is hope in knowing that nature heals by allowing us to ride home on the wind and thunder. When I was hiking in the canyon, painting these paintings, I felt a kinship with these women, even though the time I spent in the dry dusty desert was relatively easy compared to the hardship pioneer women like Ada faced, and mine was by choice. Hiking to Clear Creek Canyon may have been hard, but I didn’t just have to survive, and I could take time to immerse myself in the beauty of the land, because unlike Ada, I was only there for a short time, and had my comfortable backpacking tent, sleeping bag, and warm food to look forward to at the end of the day.
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