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Walton Ford


Not on view



Etching and aquatint

Sheet: 44 1/16 × 30 13/16in. (111.9 × 78.3 cm) Plate: 35 7/8 × 23 7/8in. (91.1 × 60.6 cm)

Accession number

1/50 | 12 APs, 2 PPs

Printed by Wingate Studio; published by Blue Heron Press

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Print Committee

Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate

In March 1631, Thomas Dudley, the deputy governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, wrote a letter to the wife of his former employer, recounting his first year of life in the new colony. Toward the end of his account of the struggle to obtain store provisions and deaths among the settlers, he wrote that large flocks of passenger pigeons—large enough to block the sun—flew over the newly established towns on the eighth of March. He ended this description with the quotation that is inscribed on Walton Ford’s 2004 etching, Visitation: “What it portends I do not know.” Ford’s incorporation of this comment into his image is grimly resonant, as the passenger pigeon, which once accounted for more than one-quarter of the American bird population, was driven into extinction by generations of settlers who destroyed the species’ natural habitat. And yet Ford does not portray the vulnerability of these creatures—rather, he shows the flock descending on the field to gorge on the bounty of the land, their rapacious behavior suggesting a metaphor for human imperialism.

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