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As works of stitchery, the books play off the literal and figurative meanings of the phrase “common threads.” (As the artist has facetiously noted, she has created an “alternate version of string theory.”) But it is the world of the classroom that provides the visual setting: the cover of each book is embroidered in a craft-like simulacrum of the ubiquitous marbled composition book familiar to every American student. On these pseudo pages Hicks stitches her found coincidences, connecting similarities in one book to the next and on to the next, and so on, until she runs through her supply. By these means, she creates something of literary pastiche that can be read as an entirely new “story.” The novel God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, for example, happens to

share a reference to amnesia with the non-fiction work, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, which itself shares a reference to the composer Shostakovich with another fiction work, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. In effect, what Hicks has done is to painstakingly establish a stitched “six degrees of separation” of textual synchronicity.

In The Desert, Jen Bervin has created a minimalist poem by refashioning an existing text, John Van Dyke’s The Desert: Further Studies in Natural Appearances. Published in 1901, the work remains one of the classics of American nature writing. Using the zigzag stitch of a sewing machine and thousands of yards of pale blue thread, Bervin has produced a spare but airy verse by means of carefully sewn redaction.

The Desert
Jen Bervin

Another kind of deception appears in Silverberg’s Home Sweet Home. What seems to be before us is a blueprint of the ground plan and elevation of a typical American house. It’s actually a printed imitation. The artist has carefully simulated the particular wan blue, along with the slightly blurred edges, of the now-antiquated Diazo technique. Like Testament Textiles, words are on prominent display, offering a welter of cross-cultural proverbs, aphorisms and quotes on the nature of womanhood.

Here, however, instead of being laid out in strips, sentences are packed tightly within the rectilinear room divisions of the pseudo-blueprint, lending the pages a busy, chattering presence, hemmed in – imprisoned, perhaps – by the insistent geometry of the house. Metaphorically, Silverberg’s home becomes a limiting container for women’s lives, a visual reflection of the often horribly misguided or outrightly hateful words placed within.

Home Sweet Home

Robbin Ami Silverberg

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