Linda Gammell, “Mississippi Book of Hours”


Linda Gammell
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Mississippi Book of Hours
photography, digital media
13″ x 10.5″ x .5″

Artist Statement

My artist’s book Mississppi Book of Hours braids together photographs, literary writing and a personal essay about place and memory. For over a decade I have photographed the Mississiippi River, which flows within a half mile of my house. I have lived on its banks since my family moved to a river town in southern Minnesota when I was in grade school.

The photographic diptychs, scanned from film images and printed on two-sided Hannemuhle paper are paired with a quote by Rebecca Solnit on how walking and memory are linked, and a poem about the river by Lucille Clifton. In the book a personal essay follows the images as a way for me to trace this deep relationship to place: a body of water which is a character in my life.

The book’s title references the medieval book of prayer that called Europe’s common people, many of whom could not read, to pause in their daily life for a ritual of devotion and reflection on the sacred.

My treks to the river serve a similar purpose. The Mississippi River is not necessarily a literal place, but an internal place where deep time, rhythms, and stillness happens. It is where I feel the effect of the turning of the earth, the position of the sun and moon, the seasons, the changing currents that make their way to the Gulf and to the oceans, the response of the cottonwoods and other trees growing on its banks to light, the gathering of birds to rest or fish, the shifting, melting ice where an image like cave drawings appears. This is psychically restorative in a time on the planet when all are suffering. While I am very conscious of the global crisis of climate change, I accept the dailiness of the river’s gifts. I say to it, “my art will not restore or protect you, but I will share your beauty and power by paying close attention.”

Many writers, including Rebecca Solnit, Wendell Berry, and others insist that such an act of solitude is a “counterforce of resistance…” that to embrace delight and beauty is essential to humanity’s well being.