work on paper     

Artist Statement

Wendy Ketchum

Statement for “Telling Stories” Print Series

This series began with an investigation of my Scandinavian roots. In researching ancient Swedish history, I was drawn immediately to the fascinating images that were carved into rock faces during the Bronze Age. These carvings tell stories about prehistoric religion and the human activities that were taking place at that time. Our need to record or map our environments is a uniquely human trait. Beyond simple demarcation, the marks and visual images made by humans in early history are complex and imbued with meaning. Before the age of literacy, ancient peoples were creating pictorial narratives with images and symbols of exploration, migration, hunting/gathering, early agriculture, celestial observations, and religious rituals.

This need to record our environment expanded from rock carvings to early map making with imagined images of unknown territories and monsters. Women wove tapestries as interpretations of oral narratives. (Even before the medieval manuscript tradition, the Old Icelandic word “bok” was translated as “book” and/or “tapestry.” The Latin root for the word “text” is “textus,” which literally means “thing woven.”) Medieval scribes introduced the tradition of illuminated manuscripts, which combined both text and pictures.

I was intrigued by the different ways my ancestors told stories and was inspired to recreate some of these narrative styles, using images taken from Scandinavian rock carvings, early Swedish textiles, ancient maps of Nordic territories, and illustrated manuscripts. I chose to create prints from woodcuts, since it seemed the perfect method to mimic early modes of visual storytelling. These images were printed mostly as bleed prints (without the traditional white margins of the paper exposed), and most were printed in a scroll-like long horizontal format to give the feeling of the print as object.