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Twelve Yards of Trading Cloth


Twelve Yards of Trading Cloth (2024) India Ink on ghost monoprints, wooden ladders, clay pipes, linen thread, linen tape, 22” x 35’ x 8′

Installation Audio: 4 minutes, 20 seconds

Cotton Hollow is a nature preserve in South Glastonbury, Connecticut. Before white settlers arrived it was the winter home of the Nayaug, a tribe of the Wangunk, part of the Algonquin federation. When colonists moved in, they harnessed—for 200 years—the power of the water in service of multiple industries (anchor works, lumber yard, cotton mill, gun powder factory, and more), forever altering the landscape. In 1636, English settlers came across the Connecticut river and purportedly made an agreement with the local sachem, Sowheag, to use the land. Thirty-five years later, in 1671, a deed was written, effectively trading the town of Glastonbury, approximately 50 square miles today, for twelve yards of trading cloth. The audio consists of recordings from Roaring Brook in Cotton Hollow as well as the artist reading parts of the 1671 deed.


“Twelve Yards of Trading Cloth”
35′ x 22″ | front & back monoprints, india ink, linen thread, linen tape

FRONT: 14 ghost monoprints with India Ink

My recent work investigates the layered history and ecology of an original home of the Nayaug people, the Cotton Hollow Nature Preserve in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Expanding ideas around the “materiality of place,” I print tangible objects I’ve collected on my walks. Roots, plants, netting, moss, fungi, and more are inked and pushed through the printing press, creating a monoprint, a trace of their presence. (See below for process images). Next, pulling from my earlier drawings, I utilize the inky line as a mapping tool, studying the roots and rocks. The final product holds a tension between the printed, pressed shapes and the organic sinewy lines made by hand. For me, the act of drawing the lines embodies a felt sense, which the artist Ann Hamilton evokes in her work. “How do you give voice to something that’s there but that’s not necessarily visible?” she asks.

My current work-in-progress and upcoming installation, “Twelve Yards of Trading Cloth” brings the immersiveness of my process into the work itself. Coming off the wall and into the space, a sewn accordion book (22” x 35 feet) is printed on both sides and inked with black lines on one. It is displayed in an undulating line, with varying levels, from the floor to six feet high. The viewer can walk the length and around it, experiencing it with their body. They look closely to find the veining of leaves or man-made netting. In other places, the image has been wiped away before printing. Referencing Chinese calligraphy or asemic writing, the abstract nature of the lines conceals the fact that they are truth, sourced directly from place—the contours of roots, rocks, trees. The paper hangs precariously on two structures, old wooden ladders with clay pipes, in reference to industry and construction.

After the Nayaug people were displaced and before being returned to “nature,” Cotton Hollow was terraformed and used as a place of industry for 200 years. As part of the piece, an audio recording plays in the gallery space. The viewer hears the sound of water and birds recorded in Cotton Hollow. They feel calm, at ease. Then, speaking slowly, a voice reads a historical legal document, a deed from 1671. The artwork’s title references the payment made by the English settlers to the Wangunk people, in exchange for the land of Glastonbury. My aim is for viewers, their senses now awakened, to feel the weight of the paperwork of colonialism.


PROCESS

How do I engage with the material of the place? How might I investigate it? Play with it? Ongoing collections & arrangements of objects in the studio, researching at the historical society, collecting objects from ongoing walks/investigations in Cotton Hollow. I’m thinking about the vibrancy of materials, about archaeology, about place-based history.

Cotton Hollow drawings, all India Ink on acorn dyed watercolor paper, 6″ x 9″ each


Materiality

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