An image of the now extinct (since 1918) Carolina parakeet, the only native American parrot species, Condemned draws upon Ford’s deep engagement with naturalist drawing, as well as his interest in political and social history. When human encroachment destroyed its natural food source, the Carolina parakeet began to eat local fruit crops. The birds were very easy to wipe out—when one of the flock was shot, the others would circle instead of flying to safety, allowing farmers to kill many birds in a single afternoon.
Condemned incorporates a quote from the American serial killer Carl Panzram (1891-1930), who wrote to capital punishment protesters while on death row in 1929, “I wish that you all had one neck and that I had my hands on it.” After a lifetime of abuse, larceny, and violence, Panzram characterized himself as “meanness personified.”
Ford and master printer Peter Pettengill first worked together in 1998, completing a series of six large plates (many colors each) designed to resemble the size and scope of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. While smaller, Condemned shares the rich color, free drawing, and exquisite printing of Ford and Pettengill’s other collaborations.