Marshall Weber

Difficult Reading #1, The Heart of the Soul of America

Marshall Weber

Difficult Reading #1, The Heart of the Soul of America



Edition Size



Aquatint, Etching, Sugar lift


Artist Book


Sydney, Australia


Michael Kempson, Cicada Press

$ 2,800.00

2 in stock

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Lafayette College

Library of Congress (LoC)

University of Connecticut (UCONN)

University of Delaware Library

A suite of 5 etchings with aquatinting (sugar-lift) details, done in collaboration with master-printer Michael Kempson at the acclaimed Cicada Press at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

The suite documents Weber’s work in experimental calligraphy and pop culture literary excavation and is the first in Weber’s Difficult Reading series of artworks. Four of the prints feature a trenchant quote from prominent historical or cultural figures (Robespierre, Jennifer Lawrence’s character Ree Dolly in the movie [and book] Winter’s Bone, Eric Garner’s last words while being murdered by New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo, and Australian actor Hugo Weaving’s character Mr. Smith’s rant from the film The Matrix by the Wachowski sisters), and one features a rambling quote by Buddy, a homeless ex-con who had been living in the streets of San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood for many years.

The suite of five prints forms a found poem that explores the social manifestations of authoritarianism at the heart of the nativist imperialist soul of the United States of America. The suite starts from the left with Robespierre, the icon of revolutionary democratic ideals that would form the base of the American Revolution. The epitome of Enlightenment thought the idea that royalty is no basis for government forms the seed of the American Soul. Next, the quote from the pop film The Matrix supplies us with a future American dystopian reality, where the soulless Americans exist in a digital fantasy, a totalitarian nightmare that expresses both American paranoia and revolutionary optimism.

In the middle of the suite is ‘Buddy’s Story’ (the quote is taken from an interview with a homeless man during Weber’s Street Our Street performance during the 2012 Streetopia Festival in San Francisco), a homeless man’s description of the destitution of life on the street of one of the world’s wealthiest countries. The oddly eloquent recounting of the addiction, the violence, and the striving illustrates the contradictions of life in the United States – a rich country filled with desperate, violent, poverty, with people isolated in hyper-individualism with little state health and social services.

The next quote is an altered version of a line uttered by Jennifer Lawrence (in her first major acting role) in director Debra Granik’s 2010 feature film adaption of Daniel Woodrell’s 2006 novel Winter’s Bone. It aptly describes the pride, aspirational culture, and colonizing ‘pioneer’ spirit of self-sufficiency that forms much of the American mythos, but it also provides a clue to the violence – a hint of the sense of resentment at the invisibility of class and colonial conflict in the USA and the option to “take, don’t ask”.

Finally, the suite ends with a bruised and gagged Statue of Liberty reciting the last words of Eric Garner an unarmed black man choked to death by New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo. The bleak irony present in the heart of the American soul is exemplified by the contrast between Garner’s words and the famous The New Colossus poem that Emma Lazarus wrote for the Statue of Liberty in 1883 – “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”.

Print dimensions and order of display:
1. Maximilien François Marie Isidore de Robespierre, 27.5 x 19.5 inches
2. The Gospel According to Mr. Smith, 28 x 26 inches
3. Buddy’s Story, 26 x 22 inches
4. Don’t Ask, 22 x 16 inches
5. I Can’t Breathe”, 23.5 x 21 inches