789: On a Columnar Self—



In installation 789: On a Columnar Self— there is a reference to Emily Dickinson’s white dress but with a different dress, once owned by the artist’s maternal grandmother. The dress on its form stands high above granite, egg and column as a symbol of defined ‘selfhood’, ‘female space’ and ‘creativity’. Dickinson visually takes us in her poem to circumstances “In Tumult— or Extremity—“ only to remind us “How good the Certainty”. Dickinson’s poem relates a reviving of one’s strength, almost demanded to hold conviction, even at times when certainty or taking a stand might elude us.


There are many stories about Emily Dickinson’s white dress. Aife Murray, a contemporary feminist writer and artist has explored Dickinson’s relationship to the Irish-born servants employed in her home. This period of time that Dickinson was advantaged by household labor allowed the poet time and space to write.  Dickinson, a woman ahead of her time, recognized the liberation of wearing white, which was actually underclothing for rather complex Victorian outer clothing. The servants would launder underclothing, so she could be free to write and dress unconventionally and not have to care for an elaborate wardrobe—a way she found to prioritize her writing.




On a Columnar Self—

How ample to rely

In Tumult—or Extremity—

How good the Certainty


That Lever cannot pry—

And Wedge cannot divide

Conviction—That Granite Base—

Though None be on our Side—


Suffice Us—for a Crowd—

Ourself—and Rectitude—

And that Assembly—not far off

From furthest Spirit—God—


c. 1863                                                                                    1929