Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Mary and I decided that the book needed to have some facing pages that go together along with the individual pages we are creating. That made me think that maybe a line up of baby feet with toe tags would be a good idea for that, but I wasn't sure how I would accomplish it. I thought, when a baby dies it would have to go to the morgue first so I imagined a row of feet. But I did not want to put them in that sterile environment so instead I laid them out on the soil of Hart Island, the last bit of sun shining on the little bodies before they are placed into the ground. (I am taking artistic license, because they come to Hart Island in their little coffins, but this was just how I felt.) Under each pair of feet I put the place where the baby died, and on each toe tag their name and date of death. I used pastel chalk to create the sky, brushed all the dust off and sealed it with acrylic medium. I printed the feet on tracing paper and cut and pasted them onto the page. The IDs are jewelry tags.

According to historic records most of the people buried on Hart Island were of some christian denomination. So on the front side of the page I wanted to create a prayer for the dead. I used a St. Joseph's Missal and cut out passages including the mass for the dead pages, made them into little strips and glued them to the page in a circle pattern, constant cycle, flow, life. For these little babies their lives were cut short and some were stillborn, so I blew on red ink to symbolize the blood of childbirth. I thought of their little souls going to purgatory, not yet old enough to be baptized.

On the back side of the spread it was time for the burial. The shovel is a block print I created. I imagined the prisoners in their denim uniforms digging in the soil singing "Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot" (another area of artistic license) while they worked. This was a song that was very important to me as a child, but I don't know why or even where I learned it, or first heard it. (note: I just realized I made a mistake with the words, oops. It is supposed to read comin' for and I stamped coming forth. I am going to get some water and see if I can brush it out.)

Mary is working on her pages and we are hoping to get together very soon to start the cover and binding.

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