Lincoln in the Bardo

Frances Hammond (She/Her)

Exploring the space between life and death was my aim when creating inside book illustrations for George Saunder’s novel ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’. In the narrative, Willie Lincoln enters the Bardo after his death, a place where spirits are unaware of their passing.

To show this transition, I utilised composition to highlight their entrapment in the Bardo and their separation from the living. Willie is parted from his mother, and the grave-shaped image demonstrates how they cannot go back to their former lives. I was particularly inspired by the quote “you are a wave that has crashed upon the shore” which is used to convince the ghosts to move on from their liminal state.

The contrast between the fictional and factual is an important theme across my practice. Here, I think that the visual combination of historical dresses and motifs alongside the surreal compositions highlights the qualities of the Bardo as a place imbued with magic and supernatural elements, but also a place full of emotion and humanity.

Words: Frances Hammond, BA (Hons) Illustration, @fran_hammond

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