In the Flatfiles at Pierogi 2000, which include a portfolio of my photographs, I came across a color image, entitled Bloody Lane, by Lee Etheredge IV.  The image was taken at the National Military Park in Sharpsburg, Maryland, where the Civil War battle of Antietam occurred in September of 1862.  Etheredge combines the image with repetitive text in a manner that might signify the quickening thoughts of a soldier marching to battle or, alternatively,  the breakdown of historical narrative and the reliance on one vivid incident to define a complex sequence of events.
Bloody Lane by Lee Etheridge, IV.  C-print 18.5 x 19 (2002) Bloody Lane by Lee Etheredge, IV. C-print 18.5 x 19 (2002)

Description of Lee Etheredge’s Work from Pierogi 2000

Etheredge continues his investigations in breaking down language from a practical perspective and reformulating it through conceptual and visual experimentation using a typewriter.

At times Etheredge develops the work as concrete poetry but more often than not he uses the 26 letters of the alphabet as elements in subtle drawn patterns. In this exhibition, in addition to the typewriter marks, he incorporates photography referencing history and place to create an historic narrative element.

Taking the Roman alphabet as his raw material and the IBM Wheelwriter as his fundamental tool, Etheredge teases out spirals of signification that range from a mathematical or “chilly” fascination with pure order to a “warm” or sensual tang that clings to language as a matrix of human thought. Arrays of letters chosen for their ink-density or curvilinear shape determine certain images. But others are constructed around text fragments drawn from specific sources and connoting quite particular narratives. (Frances Richard, 2002)

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Historical Note

On the fields surrounding Sharpsburg, the single costliest day of fighting in the Civil War occurred on September 17, 1862.  Bloody Lane was the location of some of the most intense fighting of that day.  By nightfall across the entire battlefield, there were more than 23,000 combined Union and Confederate casualties (dead, wounded and missing).  The battle became known as Antietam, which refers to a creek flowing near the town of Sharpsburg.  Abraham Lincoln used the repulse of the Southern invasion of the North to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

Alexander Gardner and his assistants arrived at Sharpsburg shortly after the end of fighting to begin photographing the carnage. He used the wet plate collodion process to make glass negatives from which he later produced albumen prints.  During this period, Gardner was employed by Mathew Brady, who held an exhibition of images from Antietam in his New York gallery in October 1862.  The exhibition, entitled The Dead of Antietam, shocked the American public, which had never before seen war depicted in such a graphic manner.  Reproductions of artists’ renderings had always been the primary visual means by which the public formed impressions of battles.  The immediacy and accuracy of the Gardner’s images would forever change the public discourse on war.

Bryan Hiott

Confederate Dead in Bloody Lane by Alexander Gardner

Confederate Dead in Bloody Lane by Alexander Gardner (1862)

Confederate Dead in Bloody Lane by Alexander Gardner

Confederate Dead in Bloody Lane by Alexander Gardner (1862)