Connecticut River Valley: SAW Press, 2018. Jackson Whitaker, Shirley. Octavo. (22)ff. One of seven deluxe copies, signed by the artist, Shirley Ann Whitaker, with a special binding by Winfred Rembert, an extra suite of colored engravings, an original drawing by Whitaker, and an engraved plate. Ashes to Ashes was originally a performance piece held in 2016, in which Whitaker organized the first-ever funeral service to commemorate and mourn the thousands of African Americans who have been lynched and denied their last rites. Whitaker then worked with printer Michael Kuch to create the present edition. The work begins with an order of service for the 2016 performance, set over an etching of a stained glass window. Then follow the eulogy, headed by an etching depicting a Black face emerging from (or disintegrating into) nooses; “Obituary: An Overdue Tribute to the Unburied & Terrorized” by Marisha Clinton and Whitaker; and portraits and obituaries for six victims, who are identified by both their names and their occupations. The volume closes with an embossed coffin, on which is printed the final words of the funeral service. A profound, wrenching work, this copy's deluxe binding features an original leatherwork piece by Winfred Rembert, who himself survived an attempted lynching. Rembert's skill and emotion are both clearly on display here, in his image of two Black men hanging from a tree. Leatherwork slab set into gray paper over boards.
The book is accompanied by a broadside on which is printed a tree and the names of the thousands murdered by lynching. This is held in a separate portfolio on which is printed “As Long As You Speak My Name I Will Live Forever.” The additional engravings are held in a chemise, and the original drawing and engraving plate are matted. These are all held, with the book, in a dropback box. The underside of the box's lid has another piece by Rembert, of the title of the book. Very fine.
Whitaker is a protégé of Leonard Baskin, from whom she learned printmaking and etching. She is deeply devoted to serving the underserved in her community, using her standing as a medical doctor and an artist to advocate for Black women artists and entrepreneurs, Black children in Amherst, MA schools, and most recently for residents of western Massachusetts and beyond in need of education on the COVID pandemic via a Facebook Live health program. Item #31130