Inspired by a hand-carved wooden pitcher from the Howard County Historical Society’s Ellicott family collection, Linda Joy Burke’s submission for Howard County Arts Council’s EC250 “ARTifacts” exhibit was selected by EC250 for one of three artist awards. The pitcher is purportedly carved from a tree or trees (possibly cedar) cut down on the old Quaker cemetery in Ellicott City by George Horseshoe of Fels Lane in 1925. No additional information about the carver is recorded in the archive’s records.
In her artist statement about her poem Ms. Burke noted that when she viewed the pitcher in person she wondered if it had been carved by a person of African descent. It was the unknown part of the artifact’s history that prompted her to choose the pitcher to reinterpret for the art exhibition. In her research to learn more about Ellicott City’s Fells Lane community (much of which no longer exists), she discovered it was a historical Black neighborhood and that much of the very early history of enslaved and freed Black people in the town had been lost. Her statement goes on to point out that she wanted her work “to honor a story of a man who worked with his hands, a connection with family and ancestors, the natural world, and the sensory experience of mindful labor.
EC250 enlisted the help of EC250 presenting sponsor ClayGround Studio & Gallery owners Ellen & Michal Koplow in making the selection. They were asked to look for a piece where the artist interpreted their chosen artifact in a unique or unusual way that shares a different perspective relative to EC history in an unconventional style–not simply a visual depiction of the artifact itself. In making their selection the Koplows stated, “We felt this piece presented a very unique artistic approach, not only as a verbal depiction of the artifact Wooden Pitcher #2, but with her historically romantic interpretation. The poem took us on a stroll down Fels Lane as we stopped to watch George pass the time of day carving the beautiful but functional vessel. For these reasons, we believe that Ms. Burke presented her art in a unique way sharing a different piece of EC history that is often overlooked. It brought the wooden pitcher and our EC history to life allowing the reader to visualize her words in a very personalized way.”
The ARTifacts runs through September 24 at the Howard County Center for the Arts. It features work by Nancy Berson, Linda Joy Burke, Caroline Creeden, Stephanie Dyke, Jennifer Eidson, Riley Goodman, Elli Hernandez, Jennifer Hudson, Nishita Jain, Tarneeja Makol, Sookkyung Park, Lisa Scarbath, Jereme Scott, Jay Shovan, Mary Jo Tydlacka, Karen Wallace, David Zuccarini, and Bonnie Zuckerman. A wide variety of media is on display including glass, cut paper, photography, installation, mosaic, live floral and spoken word.
A Poem For George Who Carves for the Water Bearers
by Linda Joy Burke
Imagine the graveyard – bent limbs on old trees creak.
grey logs scattered amongst greening vines climbing,
weather worn tombstones – one perfect log to claim.
Imagine the man George Horseshoe and the year 1925,
ask yourself – did they record his true name
or that of his father’s father?
Imagine him there on his Fels Lane front porch
or in his yard by a grey shed, on a warm summer
afternoon, or at the end of day of labor.
Imagine his tools there on a bench
in his hands his grandfather’s
chisel – a simple cherished thing.
Imagine his grandmother rocking in her
Squeaky chair, snapping green beans
pealing the potatoes, for the evening’s supper.
Imagine the carver tunneling into the center
skillfully shaving the outer bark, the woody scent
the sound of the woodchips falling to the floor
each leaf forming like a prayer
Imagine George humming,
tapping a foot, his bowed head
brow furled in a dusky light
each leaf being carved like a prayer
Imagine the carver’s love
to transform what could have been,
buried, or burned into a useful thing
each leaf being carved like a prayer
Imagine George filling his vessel
to pour libations – to water the herbs,
to quench his thirst,
each leaf been carved like a prayer.
ABOUT LINDA JOY BURKE…
Performance-Poet, writer and picture maker Linda Joy Burke is a 2013 Howard County Women’s Hall of Fame inductee, contributing editor to Little Patuxent Review Literary and Art anthology and a Co-host of the Wilde Reading Series in Columbia MD. Burke’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications including: The Little Patuxent Review, Obsidian II Black Literature in Review, Beltway: An On-Line Quarterly¸Gargoyle 54, When Divas Laugh: the Diva Squad Poetry Collective, and Fledgling Rag. She has performed and given readings or talks sponsored by: HoCoPoLitSo, Columbia Festival of the Arts, The Baltimore Book Festival, Baltimore’s Artscape, The Little Patuxent Review, The Howard County and Enoch Pratt Free Libraries and numerous other venues. LEARN MORE