Walton Ford: Condemned

Ford’s “Condemned” memorializes a Carolina Parakeet, declared extinct in 1939.  By the 1880’s the birds’ numbers suffered at the hands of farmers who considered them an agricultural pest.  Flocks plagued orchards, destroying fruit in search of seeds.

“Condemned” incorporates a quote from the American serial killer Carl Panzram (1891 – 1930), who wrote to capital punishment protesters while on death row in 1929, “I wish that you all had one neck and that I had my hands on it.”  Ford appropriates this quote, which is prominently scrawled above the Carolina Parakeet.  It is ambiguous whether these words are the voice of a farmer or one of the birds, as each is ruining the others life, but with different consequences of varying severity.

Smith college student, Emma Casey, class of 2015.

From afar, his work appears strictly observational, reminiscent of famed ornithologist John James Audubon, but upon close examination Walton Ford is blending depictions of natural history with political commentary, and critiques of socioeconomic history. The ambition and meticulous detail of his prints is remarkable. Satirizing the history of colonialism and the continuing impact of slavery and other forms of political oppression on today’s social and environmental landscape, each image is as much a tutorial in flora and fauna as it is as a scathing indictment of the wrongs committed by nineteenth-century industrialists or-bringing the work into the present-contemporary American consumer society. Each of Ford’s animal portraits is layered with clues, jokes, and erudite lessons in colonial literature and folktales.

Walton Ford is the recipient of several national awards and honors, including a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Ford’s work has been featured at Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Whitney Museum of American Art at Champion, and Forum for Contemporary Art in St. Louis. After living in New York City for more than a decade, Walton Ford relocated his studio to Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Posted on November 11, 2013 by Galerie Maximillian