The Art of Genealogy

self-portrait by luke kurtis, East Armuchee, Georgia, Nov 2010

The response to Jordan’s Journey has been extremely positive (just check out some of the recent press and see for yourself). Furthermore I’ve been contacted by a handful of people who have found me because of the press, this blog, or my social media updates. The connections are fascinating! For this synergy I am grateful.

Today I want to fill you in on some of the background behind this project. It started out as something for myself, tracing the family tree and documenting the lines. It quickly expanded into something for my family as I started to realize the extent of unique bits of information that were at best a fading memory and in some cases completely forgotten. Before long my work grew beyond the direct family lines to the broader Armuchee and Dirt Town Valley areas of northwest Georgia. Eventually my understanding of the project broadened beyond just Georgia. I took trips to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and even Arkansas to dig up information and document the story with photography (and there are still places I’ve yet to travel). And of course even here at home in New York City, the New York Public Library’s Milstein Division was a key research component. With all these rich layers of detail, Jordan’s Journey is many different things and is more than what it at first appears.

Viewing family and local history through the lens of art is particularly important for me–and something I have not seen addressed by other artists/genealogists. It’s a way to explore the past in a much more meaningful way. Readers of this blog, especially those who haven’t seen the physical book, may not understand the extent to which this is a work of art for which genealogy is the foundation. That’s ok by me. Each reader/viewer brings her own unique interpretation to the table. The ability of this work to speak to many different people on many different levels is part of what makes it so appealing to me. Genealogy and history are not black and white. Neither is art.

So, the next time you look at or read something from Jordan’s Journey think about it through the lens of art. Observe formal characteristics such as composition and layout, even literary elements such as symbolism and language. Or don’t. It can be enjoyed any way you choose. But when you consider these details, that trip into the past becomes much more than an invitation into history. It’s an invitation to explore the inward depths of artistic expression. And that’s a journey that, if you choose to embark upon it, will take you further than any other.

Coming soon on this blog I will write about a specific instance of how creative expression influenced my genealogical research. Don’t miss a beat and subscribe today via email or RSS. If you enjoyed this post, pass it along to someone else who might be interested (and leave a comment here too).

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