A continued interest in text and language and excitement to create another installation space initiated the development of Letters from Home: Collaborative Identities. This piece includes alternative methods of printing (the texts on fabric and paper) and is an exploration of the words and life of the artist’s paternal poet grandmother, Aileen Edwards Hammond (Penn). While the artist’s grandmother died before she was born, she connected with her grandmother through her poems and notes. Emily Dickinson is also clearly an influence here as well, but becomes less prevalent in the sense that the piece attempts a more personal connection by linking both poets to the artist.
Multiple poems are used but all refer to ideas and experiences about love, but also of love of artistic freedom and female identity that move beyond romantic love. The collaboration unites the artist to both women visually and emotionally, when she decided to use the small plaster casts of heads of three women, littered about on the floor like an archeological history—some broken or split in half. Note the dyed rag rugs below the cast figures belonged to the artist’s maternal grandmother, Grace N. Schlafer, so here was another female the artist connected to.
This piece in some ways is about unresolved identity and seeking a wholeness by meshing the spirit of the influential personalities together with the artist’s own poetic spirit. The poems are inscribed with a wood-burning tool into boxes and plaques that wrap around the lower edges of the space. Texts from both poets are printed lightly on the ascending and descending scroll, that opens to a spilling on the floor of text and image, containing lines from both women’s poems. The chosen poems speak to the parallels of the artist together with the two poets’ artistic and romantic insights.
We shall not speak love
We shall never name it,
For even a word
Confines and circumscribes
When it is heard.
But gentleness like summer rain
Falls from the center
Of your touch.
And in your eyes such
Tenderness that holds my heart
as still as silence is.
Hushed is the word,
This love not spoken
That moves like an undertow unheard.
For it is not far to go
Or even dark or very steep
To sometimes find the immediate
In a strange and distant sleep,
And death’s a barn—yard fowl
Cock crowing in some foreign hour
And I am old and very tired
Of budding tree and fragrant flower.
And life’s concentric wisdom rolls
Across my heart to free my soul.