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In the artists’ book Title Divine, which incorporates Emily Dickinson’s poem Title divine – is mine! Miriam Schaer takes this commonplace symbol and extracts its multiple connections with womanhood. But Schaer goes far beyond its typical associations with romantic love, sex, marriage and the many nuances of feelings involved in “affairs of the heart.” By enclosing the heart-shaped book within an actual bustier that has been stiffened and painted gold, the artist forcefully proclaims her intention to deal with the subjugated woman, the woman fettered by preoccupation with appearance and beholden to male desires. The severe rigidity of the bustier promises a seriously uncomfortable garment, while its wrinkled and faux-gold surface doesn’t particularly enhance

its aesthetic attributes. Opening the bustier to get at the book is, symbolically speaking, akin to opening a rib cage and looking into the interior of a body.

What is revealed there is the heart-shaped book itself, with its bright gold title spread across its cover. Flanking the book are two upside down heart-shaped “windows,” each housing a single authentic typewriter key, likely symbolic of writing and literature. As if to announce that these symbolic hearts have an actual source in nature – a real, blood-pumping organ – a small plastic anatomical heart hangs within the book’s recessed cover.

Title Divine
Miriam Schaer


Inside the book is Dickinson’s poem, hand-written in pen and ink and spread across the entire expanse of the two pages. By many interpretations, including Schaer’s, the poem is something of a critique of the institution of marriage and more generally of woman’s role in the world. But this temporal marriage is overlaid with indications of a spiritual marriage to Christ. The first line, anchored by an explanation point, is evidently the ecstatic statement of a heavenly bride: “Title divine – is mine!” The progression of the poem is fitful, but after a middle section that holds images of woman’s suffering and death: “Born – Bridalled – Shrouded –” it settles into an earthly idea of marriage in which wives speak reverently of their husbands: “Stroking the Melody –” And then the last line: “Is this – the way?” Many commentators, including Schaer, have taken this as a profound questioning of the wisdom of women who are so enchanted by the power of men that they relinquish all their own power.

Whatever the interpretation, it is clear that to Schaer Dickinson’s poem, even with its shifting tone and the ambiguity of its imagery, is a powerful and clear expression of female identity.

At first glance, C.J. Grossman’s Cooked Pig appears to be a hand-crafted cookbook, created with collaged vintage imagery and a recipe for chocolate custard ice cream. A doll-sized rolling pin that serves as the spine for the book and embellishments such as the decorative scalloped edges lend the book a loving-hands-at-home quality.

Cooked Pig
C.J. Grossman

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