30 × 22 × 1 in
4 in stock
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
University of Connecticut (UCONN), Storrs
University of Delaware Library
1863 is a vibrant re-imagining that challenges the standard visual tropes of the sepia-toned romanticism that has erroneously implied (and even insisted) that the Civil War in the United States of America ever really ended. This bold re-presentation was catalyzed and informed by lucid and detailed Civil War-era letters literally handed down over the centuries to finally ‘unrest’ in the capable hands of the artist Dana F. Smith. Individually paged as an unbound codex 1863 is a profound and tactile immersion in the intimacy of the ritual of personal war-time correspondence. The piece is also a powerful and complete gallery exhibition with comprehensive interpretive material incorporated into the artwork.
This is the first portfolio edition in a series of five, each titled for a year of the American Civil War: 1861, 1862, 1863, 1864, and 1865. It is a variable edition of sets of 5 signed, unnumbered, screenprints on Stonehenge paper, accompanied by 5 digital prints on Moab Entrada natural rag paper which faithfully reproduce the original letters and their transcriptions. The prints are housed in an oversized envelope digitally printed to mimic a letter mailed in 1863. Each set is curated by the artist, no substitutions will be possible, and single prints will not be available outside of the sets.
Screenprints printed by Dana Smith with Mats Stromberg at Morrison Productions, San Francisco, CA
Digital prints printed by Dana Smith, Dana Dana Dana Limited Editions, San Francisco, CA
“The result of my painterly approach to silkscreen is a wildly variant edition – each print is really a unique mono-print. The process of printing used three layers or screens. The first layer of ink was applied using a painterly technique designed to create bands of color and random shapes that depict a horizon in time where memory appears and disappears, and where the ghosts of history sometimes reveal themselves or retreat in darkness. The second layer is a half-toned photographic image selected from the Library of Congress archive of Civil War photos. Each photo shows a moment in time from the year 1863, where the soldiers, the generals, the postal workers, the wounded, the gravediggers, all are making eye contact across the centuries. The third layer is handwriting selected from the letters of William Garret Fisher, written while fighting the American Civil War, and is applied in semi-transparent metallic ink to float above the image, shimmering in and out with the shift in the angle of the viewer.
William Garret Fisher’s letters home while fighting the American Civil War are a collection of over 140 letters preserved by his/my family. Fisher joined the Union Army on September 30, 1861, as a bugler in Company A, 7th Regiment of New York Cavalry Volunteers also known as J. Morrison’s Black Horse Cavalry. When this regiment was mustered out of service six months later on August 7, 1862, Will re-enlisted as an infantry private in the 123rd Regiment, New York Volunteers. He served with that Regiment throughout the remainder of the war. All of Will Fisher’s letters are archived at www.willfisher.org.
Will Fisher’s letters were handed down to me from my great-great-grandfather through my mother, Judith Fuller Smith. Judith assisted her father, Pierpont Fuller in the tedious job of transcribing the original handwritten letters. Scanned images of the letters are seen on the right side of all the digital prints in the sets, with the transcribed text on the left. Here, to the right of this text, is a photo of William Garret Fisher, probably taken around the time that he dropped out of school to volunteer, with his mother’s permission, to fight for what he thought would be a short stint, but became a 5-year saga, as detailed in his letters home. So, it is clear that these primary source documents of Will’s eye-witness accounts of some of the most traumatic episodes in the history of the United States speak directly to me personally. It is my aim, and perhaps my ancestral responsibility, to re-construct and illustrate the troubled legacy of this epigenetic heritage.” — Dana F. Smith, San Francisco, 2021