The Song of Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1856)
Pages, wedged between oyster shells. Mounted on driftwood surrounded by ocean debris.
In The Song of Hiawatha, Longfellow paints a tragic tale of the “Noble Savage”—an Ojibwe warrior who performs heroic deeds and combats all the trickery and personification native legends can deliver.
Although the story is set near the Great Lakes, Maine claims the work of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Therefore, in my tableau of Hiawatha, the pages of text are wedged between Damariscotta oyster shells. The shells and surrounding ocean materials are embedded in the original book cover. Such a Victorian rendition seems fitting for this 1856 volume, which spawned years of traveling Hiawatha Pageants during the Western Expansion.
Cynthia Marsh is a contemporary reporter and narrative artist. As a professor at Austin Peay State University, she used large, hand-carved wood letters to begin a conversation that took form in books, broadsides, and printed environments. Currently she wanders the coastline and wooded paths of Maine searching for ancestral clues that might predict the future of our planet.