Sarah Horowitz, “Vogel Totentanz (Bird Dance of Death)”

Sarah Horowitz
Leavenworth, Washington

Vogel Totentanz (Bird Dance of Death)
Artist book with etchings and letterpress
6.875″ x 5.5″ x .5″

Artist Statement

Vogel Totentanz is a bird dance of death alphabet book inspired by Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death woodcuts and alphabet. After the Black Plague ravaged Europe in the late 14th century, death as inevitable regardless of status or age became a pervasive motif in art and literature. My present-day Totentanz is a reflection of that idea in context of our environmental crisis. Birds are indicator species for overall environmental health and human well-being.

I drew the etchings from specimens at the Cashmere Museum, the Wenatchee Valley College collection, and the Burke Museum in Washington State along with other found remains. Diotima types were used throughout. The text was letterpress printed on Zerkall Book paper by Arthur Larson of Horton Tank Graphics. Claudia Cohen boxed and bound the book. The edition numbers forty, including five deluxe copies. The regular edition is bound in a bird-footprint-etching printed blue paper and housed in a slipcase. The deluxe is bound in full leather, enclosed in a box and includes an additional suite of the etchings.

Note: This book was created just over a year ago with the impending climate crisis on my mind. As I submit this book for the prize, we are in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic and are dealing acutely with the fragility of our existence. I think that the immense human population on earth, our overuse of resources and inability to coexist well with other species, and the future intensifying weather events are all linked, along with this pandemic, in how we live on earth. I didn’t expect my book to be as prescient or timely. I made it because of my love of Holbein’s work and his connection with my mother’s hometown Basel (Switzerland) with its history of plague, earthquake, and fire. The enduring imagery of the dance of death is found throughout the city to this day.