In 2014 I traveled to Venice to begin a project centered around poetry and image. This suite of prints is the result of the ensuing two years spent engaging in a trans-generational collaboration (of sorts). It is transmutation of imagery and experience, decoding and encrypting fragments of past and present, lived and imagined.
Based on Fragments, the 1962 book of poetry written by my American grandmother, Ruth Bond Settle, under the pen-name Eunice Adams, I began with the table of contents, using the titles as seeds to generate new poems through which I came to examine my own experiences as if through a lens tinted with the residue of the experiences and impressions of another person in another time.
The resulting poems and the imagery came about simultaneously, a call and response, adopting the vibrant jewel tones that surrounded me in Venice. These fragments of imagery evoke pendants of colored glass or possibly even Platonic solids, and though they are aquatints on hand-shaped copper plates, these images were scratched into the plates using a found glass-working tool.
Many things enchant artists who find themselves in Venice: color, reflection, refraction, illumination and shadow, movement and fluidity, and a dripping opulence that feels so heavy that the only thing saving it is the illusion of buoyancy. In Venice the Platonic dividing line between appearance and reality is an undulating one, the membrane separating past and present, fantasy and memory is permeable It is in this setting that these works came to life, her book became a palimpsest, and the pages were stained with words printed with cyanotype, dependent on light, water, and time.
Before leaving for Venice I visited my aging grandmother and we talked about the project, her poems, and I asked her to write the table of contents of Fragments in my notebook in her own script. As I proceeded to appropriate her titles and write poems to tell my own stories, her sharp mind began appropriating the stories of others and recounting them as if they were her own. The membranes wear thin. She becomes a medium, transmitting stories once told to her by people long gone from this world. She tells the story of Vesuvius erupting as she watched in awe, but she has never been to Italy.
I am grateful for the generous time and support given to me by the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica Venezia and Andrea Buffolo, without whom this project would not have taken shape the way it has.