Memento Stones is a blog dedicated to the art and iconography of gravestone carving. As an artist, designer, autodidact and lifelong taphophile, it is my personal mission to spread the word about inspired memorial art with an emphasis on - but not entirely limited to - regional stone carvings produced prior to the Industrial Revolution. Please read on and enjoy the images. I hope you will find some inspiration!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Ancient Burying Ground, Wethersfield CT

My apologies for being away for so long. Today is Independence Day and I find I have the time to finally post my homage to the colonial burying ground which started me on my lifelong journey as a taphophile.

Wethersfield was settled as a colonial community in 1634, making it among the oldest in the United States. It was a frontier trading post settled by emigrants from the Massachusetts Bay colony who made their way south down the Connecticut River.

For me it is simply my hometown. I was fortunate to grow up in a place that, although hardly cosmopolitan, at least had (to paraphrase Gertrude Stein) a "there, there".  Centuries old buildings, working farms, railroad tracks, a town green, the "swamp" leading to the river, and the cemetery in the center of the old village were part of the landscape I had to explore. There's not much in the way of farming going on these days, but historic preservation has managed to maintain the buildings and cemetery to a certain extent. As with all gravestones of the period, the ones in Wethersfield are at the mercy of time, the elements and humans....but they're mostly still there. In fact many have been repaired or replaced since my childhood, but others have crumbled into decay.

My nursery school playground was located next to the burial ground, separated only by a chain link fence. I spent a lot of time peering through that fence wondering at the sea of mysterious faces, lost in time and looking back at me in silent communication.

I have found that my gravestone project provokes a variety of responses and appeals to people (or not) depending on the point of view they bring to it. Today I am giving a shout out to the history buffs and all of us Americans celebrating the Fourth of July. I am also happy to share a selection of images of some of my favorite stones: death's heads, soul effigies, and a variety of carved details that captured my childhood imagination and continue to inform my creativity today.