My dad was a dental officer in the Indian Health Service in the early ’80s, during which time he and my mom built a life in Keams Canyon, Arizona, among the Hopi and Navajo people. There, they lived in IHS housing, in one of 28 identical ranches, about 10 miles east of First Mesa where my dad looked after patients in a doublewide trailer. They returned home to Philadelphia shortly before I joined the family.
I was raised surrounded by artifacts and anecdotes related to their time in Keams, as they called it, and the cross-country wanderings that came from accumulated vacation days. Soft pretzels and Tastykakes shipped from loved ones were a taste of life at home. The silversmiths next door, responsible for wedding bands and that keychain; the tattoo on my dad’s arm. Marigold out front, and blue and white corn and melon out back.
After my mom’s passing in 2018, I inherited the family photo albums she had assembled over the years. As the unofficial family archivist, I’ve sifted through these albums now countless times, always returning to the pair from my parents’ time in Keams. Fixated on the places I’ve learned to know through finite images and stories, people I’ve heard of but cannot recognize, and a life that predated but so greatly shaped my own, I constantly feel the need to revisit this place.
I’ve traveled there twice before. Maybe an attempt to walk in their footsteps, find something. To take it in, again, and further surround myself with this landscape that somehow feels more familiar than the suburban sprawl of my childhood. I don’t know why, five years after losing my mom, I’m now making this work, researching more and more about this time and place, asking my dad to take a trip back with me. Maybe it’s that these photographs are almost entirely taken from her perspective, documenting this adventure she and my dad were on. But I think I’m fine with not knowing, and instead welcoming the sort of calm that comes with working through these images—theirs and mine.
Josh Dannin is an artist and printmaker originally from Philadelphia, now based in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. Dannin runs Directangle Press, a letterpress and risograph printmaking studio and artist residency located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Previously a regular contributor to Printeresting.org, he coedits Power Washer Zine, a semiannual publication about screenprinting featuring artist interviews and essays, high-end humor, and lo-fi graphics. In addition to leading workshops at Directangle Press, Dannin teaches printmaking as a Visiting Lecturer at Dartmouth College. Dannin received a BFA in Studio Art from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and an MFA in Printmaking from Ohio University. His printed and bound works have been exhibited nationally and internationally at galleries, artist-run spaces, and museums including International Print Center New York, Anderson Ranch Arts Center (Snowmass Village, Colo.), Rochester Museum of Fine Arts (Rochester, N.H.), Vitebsk Center of Contemporary Art (Vitebsk, Belarus), Cork Printmakers (Cork, Ireland), and Fondazione Il Bisonte (Florence, Italy). He has been an artist-in-residence at studios including Cork Printmakers (Cork, Ireland), Atelier Presse Papier (Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada), Spark Box Studio (Picton, ON, Canada), and Honolulu Printmakers (Honolulu, HI). Full CV available here.
Many thanks to the great folks at SPACE and New England Art Book Fair for the opportunity and assistance putting together this exhibition.
This exhibition is in partnership with the New England Art Book Fair, September 1st & 2nd, 2023 at SPACE.