Artist: “Ellen Shattuck Pierce is an artist living in Boston, MA. She loves printmaking and its history as a decorative art, medium for protest, and as a mode for distributing knowledge. She embraces all three of these aspects by using relief cuts to create allegorical scenes of American life in her prints, books and wallpapers. Her work has been shown in France, the UAE, Cuba and Portugal. In 2022 she was awarded a Mass Cultural Council Artist Fellowship. She attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, graduated from UMass Boston, and received her Ed.M in Arts Education from Harvard University. Being part Canadian, she longed to spend time in Canada and moved to Toronto to complete her MFA at York University.”
The Covid Chronicles
By Ellen Shattuck Pierce. 2023. Edition of 12.
8.5 x 14"; 44 pages. Hand colored laser prints. Sewn stab binding. Laid in a relief print cover. Printed band closure. Signed by the artist.
Ellen Pierce: “Linoleum is a sketchbook for me, a meditative place. Making a linocut allows me to slowly carve lines that are very certain in this uncertain time. Since March 16th 2020, I have created imagery related to the Covid pandemic, resulting in ‘The Covid Chronicles’, a series of eighteen relief carvings. The carvings each measure 18 x 24 inches and chronicle my experience of the Covid19 pandemic in Boston, Massachusetts and its wider impact in the United States. With the pivot to online teaching, I zoomed into two hundred and thirty homes to teach art to kindergarteners through fifth graders. Making the linocuts gave me some sense of agency. By recording the pain, anxiety and grief I witnessed, I aimed to escape despair and make sense of the chaos.
“Covid posed problems for having in-person exhibits. I took to sharing the work on social media. The response from viewers connecting with the prints was gratifying and spurred a phase of social practice art. I love the democracy of print as it is replicable and relatively low cost to produce so many people can have access. I wanted people to have my prints if it brought us closer but they were too large and too many to share easily. So, I printed mini-prints and sent them to anyone who asked with the request they answer a question related to the print on the postcard. The graphic nature of print and its ability to capture exacting detail made the Covid Chronicles read like tarot cards. Viewers responded to my written prompt and had visual reminders of the pandemic with which to make meaning. The conversations that transpired helped me metabolize the pandemic. I received responses capturing moments of resilience, mutual aid, beauty, humor, and pain. In the following pages, I offer the questions and a selection of answers edited to remove identifying factors from participants all of whom gave permission to share. The answers do not follow the order of questions, rather they emerge simultaneously as do our daily and profound musings. I hope the Covid Chronicles provides images, space and time for considering the pandemic and our response so that it helps us develop clear narratives and deep knowledge. The next generation will ask us what it was like. The story we tell will shape their response to future epidemics by passing to them the knowledge of things that helped carry us through.”
Each linocut print has two pages. The first is a page with a brief synopsis of the print content. This page has a cutout shape reflecting the “mood” of the print, like a window. The synopsis puts the print in context of the political and social happenings during the time of COVID. The second page is the print which is a beautiful black and white linocut recording a happening(s) during that unsettling time.
The “Let it wash over you” print begins with a cutout showing a Hand Soap bottle. The text reads “The first print refers to a time that seems hard to remember now., We were all set for a ‘two week’ disruptive adventure, sent home from work and school. We were told to wash our hands and groceries. We walked six feet apart from each other and shopped in one-way aisles. It seemed the quarantine might just wash over us and away.” The full print around the bottle of hand soap shows woods, paths, swimmers, dog walkers, runners, and so much more. While the scene looks calm the words printed on the pipes indicate so much going on underneath “Exhaust / Air Intake / Exhale / Inhale”.
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