UbuWeb Ethnopoetics : Visuals

Spirit Message, 1843. Anonymous.

"The [Shaker] drawings … are documents of ‘visions’ taking a physical form that is, in most instances, highly contained and organized. Nonetheless, within this ordering are chaotic details and decorations, flourishes of line and color, as well as indecipherable texts and, alternately, those that read with heart-stopping clarity. A vision seen or heard by one Shaker member as a divine manifestation is then transcribed by another, assaulting on several fronts the modern notion of authorship. Whether intentionally or not, the Shakers contradicted many traditional notions of art-making, just as the relative freedom afforded them in their chosen home, the United States, allowed them to pursue a rigorous life of communal devotion very unlike the ‘cult of the individual’ that the new country promulgated." (Ann Philbin and Catherine de Zegher, in Shaker Gift Drawings and Gift Songs, The Drawing Center, New York, and UCLA Hammer Museum, 2001.)

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