Declaration of Independence ~ Preamble

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men people are created equal, that they we are endowed by their Creator Creation with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men People, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind people are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Commentary and Information About The Art

The original version of the preamble to the Declaration of Independence exclusively centered adult White male landowners. This was not an oversight. It was not a mistake. It was absolutely intentional.

The Founding Fathers invested in their own and other such men’s happiness and liberty on purpose.

Although it is clear that for them in that time and place it was a radical notion that all of these men should be considered equal to one another, it was not a foregone conclusion that they would settle for such a limited vision of enfranchisement. There are documented entreaties from a handful of well-placed women to “remember the ladies” during the Declaration drafting and there were intense debates about the idea that “all men are created equal” when many of the Framers enslaved other humans. Children, however, do not appear to have been considered at all.

And, in the Declaration, the Founding Fathers left instructions should we ever be in a situation akin to theirs that involves a long train of abuses and usurpations designed to subject us to absolute Despotism. They left us instruction and encouragement to know that it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such Government to provide new Guards for our future security.

I made this piece during the last year of President Trump’s term when the prospect of Despotism seemed all too possible. There was then, and continues to be, a great deal of debate about whether the grand experiment of American democracy could be salvaged or if it needs to be burned to the ground. I include it here because while President Biden is focused on “building back better,” I’m not convinced this will be sufficient to root out the patriarchal, White supremacist, profit-driven infrastructure upon which our systems still depend. We may need a far more radical reset and I want us to remember that we would not be the first Americans to conclude such a thing.

The series of images above that comprise the central text of the Declaration of Independence were printed from a very long embroidery wherein I substituted inclusive language and removed reference to a monotheistic God. The printing itself was done via the smooth surface of a long rectangle cut from a russet potato. Thin coats of various colors of acrylic paint were applied to the potato surface, pressed upon the embroidery in sequence, and then pressed on cotton rag paper.

The main text uses typeset inspired by Elizabeth Colwell’s font, ‘Colwell Handletter’ created in 1916. Colwell was the earliest known American woman to have her font design cast into metal. The contemporary edits use font inspired by PT SANS, which was designed by Alexandra Korolkova, Olga Umpeleva, and Vladimir Yefimov in 2009.

Information about Colwell is here:

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