“Bleed / Burn / Boast” was a piece created specifically for an exhibit at the Watkins Museum of History in Lawrence, Kansas, during the summer of 2013 commemorating the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s Raid. Nearly 200 men and boys were murdered in the Civil War-era massacre, and a significant portion of the town was burned to the ground, but the survivors were defiant and the town quickly rose from the ashes stronger than ever. Through this piece, I tried to illustrate the violence of the event, the pride of those who live in the city today, and the necessity for us to work against the tide of time to ensure the sacrifice is remembered. The following is the artist statement that accompanied the piece:
Ask me where I live and I will proudly proclaim, “Lawrence, Kansas!” It’s a unique pride that I haven’t felt in any of the other places I’ve lived, yet I recognize this pride isn’t unique to me. No matter whether we’ve lived here our entire lives, recently relocated from somewhere else, or only spent four years on the Hill, our shared experience of living in Lawrence involves drawing pride from common wells: a love for Jayhawks basketball, an appreciation for expression and tolerance, and a dedication to social responsibility, just to name a few.
But while it’s easy to identify the fuel for our pride, time has a way of obscuring the source of it, which took root 150 years ago in the aftermath of our city’s most tragic event. Amidst the smoldering buildings torched by Quantrill and the fresh graves of nearly 200 fathers, brothers, and sons were planted the seeds of hope for a better future. The defiance of the survivors to rebuild and their determination not just to survive, but to live, has led to everything we love about Lawrence today. We owe it to them to be proud of what this special city has become and to never forget the sacrifice that defined it.