John Brown’s Vision on The Scaffold is a new series begun during a residency in Waterford, Virginia in 2017 and continued during a residency at The MacDowell Colony in 2018. The images are part biography of abolitionist John Brown and part examination of the role of redemptive violence in United States history. “John Brown’s Body” was the battle cry sung by Union soldiers against the Confederacy. The tune was then adapted for The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Brown, a staunch Calvinist followed the Cromwellian belief that God is the highest law and the only one meant to be followed. Brown emerged publicly during the tense moment when Abolitionism took on greater urgency and Southern slaveholders answered with increasing violence. Political compromises from Washington further enabled slaveholders to silence Abolitionists. With the intellectual framework of the Concord Transcendentalists Brown’s actions in Pottawotomie, Kansas gained a new political and moral context. Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry electrified both the South and the North. The North saw him as an ennobled freedom fighter and the South as a killer proving the depravity of the North. Brown was a much more complex figure than either side allowed. His actions can still be seen different prisms.
The work in this gallery received support from The Balboni Family Trust, Oregon Arts Commission and The MacDowell Colony. Three of the watercolors will on view at Linfield Gallery until October 5, 2018. Here’s a review by David Bates from Oregon Arts Watch.