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A contemporary artist's
interpretation of German-Russian wrought iron cemetery crosses

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Excerpts from the

The German-Russian Exhibit
An Exploration of German-Russian Heritage

Shannon Bickford, Artist
(Gallery 25, Fresno, CA; September 2018)

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German-Russian wrought-iron cemetery crosses. Redrawn with permission, courtesy of many German-Russian blacksmiths and Dr. Timothy J. Kloberdanz

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 The practice of making wrought-iron cemetery crosses was brought to the Americas by German-Russian blacksmiths, who had learned their skills in the Volga and Black Sea regions of Russia.  Use of the crosses in the United States and Canada was popular with the German-Russians, mostly Catholic and some Protestants, between the 1870s and the 1930s, after which their popularity declined as did the number of blacksmiths who created them.       

   The design of the cross reflected both the smith that forged them and the person for whom it was made. Designs included sunflowers, sun-bursts, hearts, angels and stars.  Wheat stalks were sometimes added to a farmer’s cross, or a favorite flower to another’s.  The imagery is refreshing, sometimes almost playful, affirming both life on Earth and the afterlife.

        These adaptations of the wrought-iron crosses were painted and cut digitally, glued, and sometimes traditional media were added.


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Timothy J. Koberdanz. 1988.  German-Russian Wrought-Iron Cross Sites in Central North Dakota.  National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form, National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior.


Vrooman, N. C. and Marvin, P. A. Editors. 1982.  Iron Spirits.  North Dakota Council on the Arts, Fargo, ND. 

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