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As the Ox Plows


swamp show essay


paper illustrations


a poster-zine by 24* artists

“as strong as an ox”

“As the Ox Plows“ is a poster zine that utilizes the Boustrophedon method: an ancient technique found in both farming and literacy. 

 This project includes 24 artists and 1 artist duo including: 

(Matias Armendaris & Hanya Beliá)

Annabell P. Lee
Anthony Coleman
Barry Elkanick 
Chioma Ebinama
Claire Milbrath
Elliot Camarra 
Emma Kohlmann
Ethan Skaates 
Javier Ramirez
Justine Rivas
Justus Kempthorne
Kevin McNamee-Tweed
Michael Childress
Mosie Romney
Nadair Asghari
Naomi Romm
Praise Fuller
Santiago Licata
Simone Bodmer Turner
Suzanna Zak
Tara Castellano 
Ursula Macussen
Vinnie Smith

Aristide Maillol, “Peasant Farmer” 1943

For millennia, plowing a field involved cutting grooved trenches in alternating directions.  A new trench does not have to start from the same direction as it began:  this type of pattern alternates  from left-to-right and then right-to-left. 

This farming technique was developed over 4,000 years ago and derives from the Greek word, Boustrophedon

Boustrophedon translates
to “ox-turning” in Ancient Greek.

“Bous” means
“an ox”

“Strophos” means “a turning” 

p.s: “Trophe” 

[Bostrophedon] means “from nourishment and nutrition” in Ancient Greek. I like this connotation of Bostrophedon: as an ox turns fields, the results give sustenance and new life to what takes root in the soil. It’s a nice sentiment running in tangemt to this project. 

Boustrophedon also refers to a type of

ancient reading and writing technology

. Which is mostly found in stone-carved manuscripts today.

Similar to an ox-plowed field, when using this method in reading and writing, the text starts from left-to-right and then is followed-up with a line that goes from right-to-left. Every other line has mirrored text.

Unlock this Boustrophedon DECODER--->

Ancient Greek, Etruscan, Safaitic, and Sabaean are a few of the languages that used Boustrophedon. Early advanced civilizations were more ambidextrous than today’s soceities because of their adapted lifestyles, which catered well to this method of reading and writing.

Some could argue that the Boustrophedon technique may in fact be more efficent that the standards of today, because reading and writing didn’t have to start from one side of the margin line -- it could start from both. In 403 B.C Athens standardized its alphabet to read from left-to-right. Each town in Ancient Greece had its own writing system and at times, its own alphabet. Boustrophedon fizzled out during the Hellenistic period.

  Boustrophedon Mesoamerican writing systems  

Boustrophedon reading orders in Western Mesoamerican writing systems. (a) South section of text in the Plaza de los Glifos; (b) Proposed boustrophedon reading order; (c) Detail of Codex Boturini (Johansson K. 2007:51) showing text and identical boustrophedon reading order as at La Ventilla (note hairlines connecting the glyphs to mark off the reading order). Drawings by Christophe Helmke.

Perhaps the traditional writing systems of Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other languages that feature vertical text, had once been adapted from the Boustrophedon method? 

Above: “Tsukishima is a Kōwaka-mai (dance drama) ballad that dates from the Muromachi period (1336-1573).” From the Library of Congress Archives here.


Various sumerian texts which call ninurta a “trustworthy farmer”, “lord of vegetation” and the “ploughman”/ lord of the earth”  


Symbol of St Luke. The Ox symbolizes sacrifice and service which is why St. Luke is shown with this animial. In Luke’s writings about Jesus, he talks about the sacrifice Jesus made to save all people through his death on the cross and his Resurrection.

The Lion King Receives The Ox
- Kalila wa-Dimna 

Kalīla wa-Dimna is a collection of moral tales considered to be the first secular fiction in the Arabic Language. First appeared in the 8th century. The story of the Lion and the Ox can be found here

The Bestiary of Anne Walshe (Denmark, created between the years 1400-25) 

Based on certain Bestiaries, Oxen were understood to predict the weather. This folklore is still believed by some today.   

The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl

A Chinese folk Tale

"The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl" is a romantic Chinese mythological tale which can be traced back to 2600 year old poetry. It describes the forbidden romance between Zhinü, “the weaver girl” (Godess of weaving, who represented the Vega star constellation) and Niulang (“the Cowherd” and Altair star) in Heaven. The love between them (which took place in the sky) was not allowed because in the Heavens of the Chinese mythological world, stars were not allowed to fall in love. With the help of Cowherd’s ox friend, he was able to reconnect with the Weaver Girl. Sadly, they were forever banished to the opposite sides of the Heavenly River (also known as the Milky Way) by the Goddess of Heaven. But on July 7th of every year, Magpie birds create a bridge in the sky that reunites the two lovers and their two children. July 7th in China is Valentine’s Day, also known as the Qixi Festival. To read this story in more detail, please follow this link.

Magpie Bridge For Love

Aesop’s The Frog & The Ox Fable

A frog inflates itself bragging he can be as big as an ox. Too big, too bad. Pop.
Conceit may lead to self-destruction.

“An Ox came down to a reedy pool to drink.
As he splashed heavily into the water, he crushed a young Frog into the mud.

The old Frog soon missed the little one and asked
his brothers and sisters what had become of him.

"A great big monster," said one of them,
"stepped on little brother with one of his huge feet!"

"Big, was he!" said the old Frog, puffing herself up. "Was he as big as this?"

"Oh, much bigger!" they cried.
The Frog puffed up still more.”

more on the Fable Here.

Sacred Cow

The sanctity of the cow, in Hinduism, is the belief that the cow is associated with various deities including, Shiva (whose steed is Nandi, a bull), Indra (closely associated with Kamadhenu, the wish-granting cow), Krishna (a cowherd in his youth), and goddesses in general (because of the maternal attributes of many of them). 

Ox vs. Cow vs. Bull

the differences

A ox is a trained draft work bovine (cattle). The males are castrated...
A cow: a mature female bovine
A bull:  a uncastrated mature male bovine.

Chinese Zodiac

Ox Years: 1901, 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, 2021
*year of the ox attributes: hardworking and honest*

7th–8th century Tang Dynasty Earthenware Ox

This object falls under tomb Pottery, which is a  deceased persons item carreied with them to serve them in the afterlife. China.

Iranian Jug from 7th-6th century B.C

Jug in the form of a recumbent bullca. Ceramic and paint. 

Seal with an Ox 3000-1500 B.C

This is a baked steatite seal from Pakistan.


Musk Ox have lived in the Arctic’s cold climate and survived the Ice Age. They eat mosses, roots, and lichens. Aren’t they cute?

Viking Wilderness - Muskox High Speed Collision

The Ice Age ended 14,000
years ago and wiped out large species like the wooly mammoth and mastodon. But these oxen species survived! Today they call the Artic areas of Greenland and Canada home.

a defensive line of muskox. 

Plough vs. Plow

Plough is the British spelling. It derives from the Old Norse word, “Plógr”.

Other words with “lough” endings:

Lough - a bay or inlet of the sea
Slough - a swamp (!)
Turlough - “a seasonal or periodic water body found mostly in limestone karst areas of Ireland, west of the River Shannon“ according to WIKI

This is a main beam of an ancient Medieval plow found in Ireland. Thought to be dating back to 1050-1230 AD.


The culmination of large-scale industrial farming and mechanized steel plow machinery over the last two centuries, have created negative affects on the earth’s biodiversity and drastic warming temperatures.

Plowing can disrupt the top soil layer’s poreous structure. This means the soil will become more compact, and destroy its ability for water absorbtion. Due to the soil’s lack of water retention, the amount of times a farmer has to water a field is increased. Which raises the chances of flooding during heavy rains. This also creates a reliance on harmful chemical inputs like herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. 

Image source: USDA

Soil relies on a biodiverse array of naturally occurring organisms like bacteria, worms, and fungi, to sustain a thriving microbiome. Industrial plowing creates disruptions to the homes of these organisms and greatly impacts the fertility of healthy soil growth.  

No-tilling agriculture is an alternative method to plowing. It involves more work but greatly reduces erosion and runoff.

Fairfield Farm, Williamstown, Mass. | No-till and Soil Health

This practice creates better absorption of rainwater and efficiency of irrigation during hot weather. With global warming being our reality, this method uses less water and supports heathly soil micoorganisms. It does not destroy soil layers that are integral to growth and vital for nutrience.

Image source: USDA


Both Ukraine and Syria are/were “bread baskets” of their respective regions and are both traumatically affected by big regime aggression and war. Ukraine has over 25 percent of the world’s chernozem (a Russian word for “black earth”) which means it has a high percentage of phosphoric acids, phosphorus, and ammonia that make it very fertile for agricultural yields. 54 percent of  Ukraine land is arable (suitable for growing an abundance of crops). 
The Syrian government had ‘strategic reserves’ of wheat, around 3.5 million tons, which was enough to sustain the entire country for one year. Prior to the uprisings in 2011, Syria was considered one of the leading exporters of cereals, fruits and vegetables to nearby countries and the Gulf. Conflict and climate change continue to put so many country’s agricultural future in grave risk.  


 Valentine’s Mix 2022 

 follow your heart 


The Lost Genius of Judee Sill
2014 BBC Radio Documentary


The Swamp Show

An Outdoor Exhibit on the Oxbow, Nonotuck

The Swamp Show was an outdoor exhibition set along the Connecticut River’s Oxbow in Northampton, Massachusetts. The show was on view October 8-10 2021 and entirely assessible by canoe ride.

     Appointment reservations were made advance to not overwhelm the landscape and to meet COVID precautions.

     The canoes wre provided along with lifejackets. Those who have access to canoes and kayaks were welcome to coordinate and bring them to the site for their appointment.

    For those who could not join us in person, there will be thorough documentation and filming of this experience by Alexander Rotondo and Lazar Bozic.

   A Reception took place on Saturday with a performance by LUCY (Cooper B. Handy). A reading by Isa Reisner and Michael Childress.  

The address was shared after you made the reservation,

please do not expect
a canoe ride without a reservation..


Aidan Koch
Alexander Rotondo
Annabell P. Lee
Astrid Terrazas
Barry Elkanick
bobbi Salvör Menuez
Brook Hsu
Cecilia Caldiera
Chris Lloyd
Claire Christerson
Dylan Kraus
Elizabeth Jaeger
Emma Kohlmann
Estefania Puerta
Esther Clark
Hannah Brookman
Jessica Butler
Liam Halvorsen
Maia Ruth Lee
Michael Childress
Naomi Romm
Nick Sethi
Sarah Nsikak
Suzanna Zak
Vinnie Smith

An incredible illustration by LIAM HALVORSEN! THANK YOU,LIAM!

 An Oxbow is a U-shape curve in a river or lake.

Native Indigenous people in this area, like the pocumtuc tribe, referred to what is now called “Northampton” as Nonotuck. This word translates to

“far away land”,
“middle of the river”
“land in the middle of the river”

It was given this name because of
the Oxbow formation in the river that
pervades through the area.

The Connecticut River Oxbow, the site of this exhibition,
technically is no longer a continuous U-shape meander.
Due to various factors accounted for by human modification
of the environment, industrialization and natural major
flooding, it now is dissected into three bodies of
water with portions connected through channels. 

The Swamp Show is located in an inlet
cove that is shaped like a crab claw.

The historic topographical changes of this river have aided a swamp forest to thrive with a
Shrek-colored-turbid algae bloom that unfurls in the warmer months.

It has trees, shrubs, and hydrophytes which create a bio-diverse environment for amphipods, birds, flora, fauna, algae and aquatic plants to flourish. The artists presented in this exhibit share connections to this kind of natural environment in their varied practices, or likely share a consciousness expressed in their work. 

These fractures of human interference
have broken up the river’s natural horse-shoe curvature.

Ox Bow, the Object: a U-shaped collar (ox yoke) typically for a pair of oxen. This design permits two oxen from pulling a heavy load in unison allowing for equal form and efficiency of strength & power. 

This particular landscape has been subject to many publically circulated paintings and drawings over the past three centuries. The earliest known work on record was made in 1826, featured below.

The most circulated landscape painting of the oxbow is Thomas Cole’s “View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm", painted in 1836. Cole painted it from drawings he referenced in a book. It lives in Gallery 759 of The MET in NY if you would like to say hello to it. 

Some Vintage “Oxbow” knits from Ebay: 

Emma and I live on the island surrounded by the oxbow, it is also known as the Hockanum Meadows. At the tail-end of this one road, residential neighborhood is a boating marina.This segment of the oxbow connects openly with the rest of the river, allowing boats to travel freely up and down the full extent of the body of water. Photo taken September 7, 2021

A shell from the Oxbow (approx. 2 inches long).

This landscape can alternatively be experienced telescopically from Mount Holyoke (Skinner State park) Hadley, Massachusetts. From the summit of this mountain one can see the Oxbow from over 900 feet in elevation. This viewpoint is where so many renderings of the oxbow and the greater Connecticut river valley have been immortalized. One can also observe 360 degree views of Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont - taking notice of the pastoral landscapes and doll-sized silhouettes of urban cities and towns, which are surrounded by the foothills of Berkshire and Sunderland mountains.

Emma and Alex on the Summit.

We spotted fox pups one day
while walking down the mountain..

A lot of Blue Mountain Birds
live up there.

Click here to hear their song... 

This postcard is inscribed with : “Dear Mrs. Cameron, Will you take a trip with me this summer, to see this beautiful tree? Shall be delighted to have the pleasure of your company. -a.w”

Taken from the Parks dept. (team from SKINNER park- Mount Holyoke), Hawk Handout: “Hawk migration begins in mid-September and continues through the month of November with different species moving through at different times. The show begins with large flights of Broad-winged Hawks around the middle of September.

Continued.... “ If the weather conditions are right, it is not unusual to see from one to several thousand hawks pass by the Summit House. The proper weather conditions include a steady northwest wind and at least partly sunny skies. This marks the approach of a high pressure weather system. The tail wind aids the hawks and the sun warms the earth, which results in rising currents of air called thermals. The soaring hawks rise up on the thermals and then “peel off” at speeds approaching 20 MPH until they catch another thermal and begin the process over again. This method makes it possible for the birds to travel many miles without ever flapping their wings. Broad-winged Hawks are known for migrating in large groups called “kettles”. It is not unusual to see upwards of a hundred birds in a “kettle” soaring over Mt. Holyoke. The Broad-winged Hawk is in a family of hawks called buteos. They generally have broad wings and tails and spend most of their flying time soaring. Other buteos that can be seen migrating past the Summit House include the Redtailed Hawk and the Red-shouldered Hawk.”

Text is from this free printable handout


Judy Hawke, is a Grandmother figure for Emma and I. She is a poet, teacher, nature-lover and Grandmother to Raisa. She appreciates all kinds of creatures - small and large. I am deeply inspired by Judy and her friendship. She likes to write poems about all things and in particular... birds.
Here are a few recent poems by Judy:

Birds Flutter

Birds flutter down like falling leaves, 
And hide in sunlit thicket of willow.

Great horned owl hoots his muffled call
Across my frozen field. 

Early morning calm and cold
Hold eternity in momentary reverence.

Lunch at the Hanging Suet Cake

Two hungry diners came for lunch today, 
So i sat down to see which of them would stay, 
First came little Downy, more timid than 
cousin Hairy, 
But when lively little Nuthatch came, Downy 
didn’t find her scary, 
“Take the other side of the cake,” said Downy
pecking fast, 
And they ate and swung together in a friendship 
that might last.

A forthcoming book release of Judy’s poetry will
come out this late fall, 2021. It will be illustrated
by Emma and Raisa Sandstrom will be consulting.

In the winter season, one of the most lovely and freeing activities Emma and I like to do is ice skate on the Oxbow. It’s nice cause you not only experience the river as a terrain but as you glide upon it, you can feel it emotionally in a new way.💋️AYMwfS0QfM - emma on the ice (January 26, 2021)...

The Mass Audubon was founded in 1896 and is a nonprofit orgnanization serving to protect birds, flora, fauna, and other wildlife that call home to the 40,000 acres of Massachusetts land considered apart of the organization. This includes 150 endangered and threatened native species. It is located on the Southwest part of the Oxbow. The sanctuary secondarily serves the public. They have a variety of free programing for kids and adults across all of their 20 nature centers,including a wide array of bird watching guided experiences.One of their local nature sites sits along the Oxbow (across from the boating marina).

They have free guided programs!!! Here is there website

This is an ongoing blog post! h a p p e n i n g n o w