The Artist Gatherer Hits the Road
Since my handcrafted book “Lincoln Slept Here” was conceived as a travel journal, it was time to back away from my computer research and hit the road. My husband Ken Smith is a professional photographer who recorded the places, and events where I posed with facsimiles of my hero. It was more than 30 years ago when Ken snapped a photo of Lincoln and me. I couldn't make it up to the lap of the larger-than-life-size bronze sculpture at the entrance of the Civic Center in San Francisco.
In 2013, we went to Springfield, IL for the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. Celebrations and special exhibits took place in the impressive Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. I was mesmerized by the historically accurate exhibits with realistically rendered figures of the Civil War era: the Lincoln family, the assassin John Wilkes Booth and former slaves and abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman. I hugged the actor “Mary Lincoln” and apologized for history’s inaccurate maligning of her. Some think this it cheesy but this was live theater and I was under its spell.
In Chicago, you bump into Lincoln without trying. Overlooking Lake Michigan in Lincoln Park is the colossal Augustus Saint-Gaudens' “Standing Lincoln” adjacent to the Chicago History Museum, which houses a Lincoln collection including his deathbed.
In Washington, DC's, Smithsonian Portrait Gallery, familiar historical faces looked down on me. Julia Ward Howe penned the lyrics of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” in a single night’s frenzy. Walt Whitman never made it inside the White House. The great poet and President Lincoln admired each other but had only a nodding acquaintance on their walks in the Capital city.
President Lincoln on the Battlefield of Antietam. Alexander Gardner, photo
Lincoln trailed me in New York, where my main targets are art museums. On an accidental ferry trip to Staten Island (We meant to go to the Statue of Liberty), Ken and I happened upon contemporary photos of Civil War sites and reenactments.
Since I interpret history through my art, I want to be faithful to facts and use original sources of photographs and illustrations when I can. Quotes and descriptions are taken from historical records. I depend upon a growing bibliography of the books, films, videos, museums, and sites.
The “Strange Fates of Lincoln: A Portable Museum” is a vehicle for me to express my need to paint, draw, build, and tell stories. I gather information, report events and probe ideas. The hunting and gathering never stops.