Saturday, December 5, 2009


This was the last project of my Monday clay studio. The session is over and I have done all the things I set out to complete. This set of figures was made to place on my block wall. I see it from my kitchen window and thought it needed some friendly small sculptures. They are stoneware fired to cone 10 with only their faces glazed.

I did not set out to give them any specific action but just cut them from slabs and twisted and shaped them into place. Afterwards I gave them names. This one is the whisperer. You can see more on flickr.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


So today I worked on cover number two. My edition of IN THE TRENCHES, Hart Island, New York. All alone, without the aid of my trusted friend, I actually managed to make a book cover. Well, the paper on the spine is supposed to be reversed, and when I attached the palm paper, some of it shredded on the ends! But this is all about learning and letting go.

I did not photograph the process as my hands were gluey and it was all I could do to get everything pasted up. It is now sitting between sheets of waxed paper and pressed with all my art books on the floor of my studio (living room).

The first cover was made with a very pretty black paper, but it bled when we glued it. Here is the solution we came up with... add some rubber stamps and make it look like it happened purposefully. What do you think?

see more on flickr

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


This exercise in recreating something from the past was well spent. It helped me understand the fragility of the clay as well as its strengths. The areas that I thought were most delicate, the slab triangle inside, held up, and an area where I attached one coil to another on the outer surface cracked. (There was some problem in the kiln this firing, as there were several pieces that cracked, most of them belonging to the professional facilitator). The glaze is fine.

When I saw the final piece it reminded me of a "Hershey's Kiss", minus the kiss. So that's its name.

I was never too attached to any part of this piece, so it was all fun.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Story Book Artists is a grassroots collaborative of neighbors with the common interest of creating art in a social setting. Historic downtown Phoenix provides the backdrop for the Story Book Artists' gatherings in which artistic techniques, processes, and ideas are exchanged. This diverse group produces original and individualistic works of art that breathe a sense of community.
~ Todd Daniel


Buachaillí Bána (Whiteboys) Gocco Print

A tenacious capacity for hatred can be found in the Irish people, brought about by anger against oppression. This image from the 1930s of Buachaillí Bána (Whiteboys) is testament for the lasting emotion.

Amused and intrigued by this old Irish photograph I was compelled to create this print.

Buachaillí Bána, a secret Irish agrarian organization from the 1700s, used violent tactics to defend tenant farmer land rights for subsistence farming. After the Rising of '98 the Act of Union was enforced which resulted in absentee English landlords giving middlemen a free hand to charge rack rents to tenants who lived in fear of eviction. Over time, Whiteboyism became a general term for rural violence connected to secret societies.

Through my research over the past few years I have become drawn to the plight of the Irish, especially of the mid 1800s, the horrors of the Great Famine and the subsequent migration or death of over a fourth of the population.

I don't know if being a first generation American makes one feel that they are not really part of the culture, or sort of bridged between two cultures. All I know is that sometimes I feel a longing for a culture I have never really experienced, but somehow, very deeply, feel I know. This was especially noticed when I went to Ireland, the birthplace of my ancestors: Mac Giolla Earnáin, more commonly known as McLarnon. Never did I feel so acquainted with a place and so comfortable. The strongest experience I had was in Lurgan, Northern Ireland.

It was a Saturday evening at a local, segregated graveyard where Jake and I found many a relative buried. As we looked at the plots two women tending a grave close to us were wondering what we were doing there. Jake explained that my family was from Lurgan and that we were looking for connections. They asked for my family's religion, then told us to go over to the Catholic Church and see if anyone knew of any relatives in the area.

There was a group of four older women standing and chatting after mass as the crowd was leaving St. Peter's. They seemed approachable, so Jake and I went to talk to them. One woman, Una, was particularly interested in helping us. She said she knew some McLarnons and walked us door to door to see if any were related. As we walked, I commented on how helpful she was and also how just about everyone was so friendly and kind to us. She said, it was nothing, but then she said something that really stopped me. "We usually hate everything," was her comment, as she smiled and looked at me with her deep blue eyes. In my family, if someone mentions a book, a movie or an actor, we immediately reply "Oh, I just hate (something relating to the topic)." We usually get teased or reprimanded for our highly opinionated commentary. But here was Una highlighting just the same attitude.

After we came home from Ireland I wrote to the church for more records on my family. They had my grandfather's baptism certificate and the wedding of my great grandparents and their parents listed. The funny thing is that after I found out more, I wrote to Una and told her what I had discovered. It turns out her grandmother was my great grandmother's sister.

I think the Irish have a great sense of community and pride, but also of a great sense of deprivation: which sometimes manifests on a large scale in rebellion and on a small scale in anger and depression. Part of looking at Ireland's history for me is to develop an understanding of my story. In part of that story there is a need for community. My community is composed of wonderful, artistic, creative, and insightful people. With them I feel like I belong, my cultural uncomfortableness disappears. Routinely getting together to work on projects with my husband, Jake, and with my friend, Todd, working on long distance collaborations with my friend, Mary, and belonging to the newly formed Story Book Artists group I feel acceptance. Without them there would be a terrible isolation.

I would hate that.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


This is one of the larger sketches in the series measuring 8 x 6 inches and depicting a ring that is no wider than one inch. It is the ring that Mary C. Leto so generously let me keep out of the two that were found with the mystery items. I had a garnet set into it and wear it everyday. It keeps me close to the project and to my friend. Mary has the other ring. In earlier times, garnets were exchanged as gifts between friends to demonstrate their affection for each other and to insure that they meet again. I like that.


I am new to bookmaking (no, no not the kind where you take bets) and never made a real cover before (I have made some lame attempts though), so I think I might have uncovered the binding from the press too soon. There was some warping. I have placed it under pressure again. Sorry, Mary, you left it here and I don't know if I am a good caretaker of this book.


During our random art nights (because we all can't get our schedules coordinated for a regular time) Jacob has been creating some series of prints. One is a group called the Freedom Series which features commentary on social issues of imprisonment, revolution and torture. The other is called the Strange Series and reflects a scary approach with a nod to classical horror imagery.

this is one of my favorites: Viva, Freedom Series © copyright 2009

There are many more images that are featured on the flickr pages. If anyone is interested please contact Jacob.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


It is late on Tuesday night and we have just peeked under our weights to see how the cover is drying. Mary and I are very happy with the results. The palm paper on the front cover is just as we imagined. Our only disappointment was the black paper we chose for the spine. It bled a lot and it came through the map on the inside cover. We are thinking of a way to purposefully disguise it. There has been a whirlwind of events these last few days, but sharing them with my great friend and colleague, Mary C. Leto, has been fun.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Several friends in our downtown Phoenix neighborhoods have gocco printmaking systems. We all had the same reaction to gocco, we tried it once and just had to have the printmaker. Rather than let our little printers sit and gather dust, we decided to invite a group of creative people to make some prints. One friend offered her backyard for the workshop and others brought food and wine. We brought our goccos.

We called our group Story Book Artists and will be having more workshops in the future. One print each was donated back to the group so that we could try to get a local coffee shop or gallery to show the images. See more on flickr.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


trench upon trench upon trench upon trench by Mary C. Leto

Mary has arrived from South Carolina and has brought her 16 pages. They are really just amazing. We spent the first day sorting all the pages out and arranging them in the best order, very happy with how well our designs complimented each other.

The next step was thinking about the binding. Because of the uneven edges and weight and texture of the paper we chose not to do a traditional spine, but instead have a sort of deconstructed book in which the pages are tied to a grid. We felt the strings act like a representation of the roots of trees, as well as, the roots of families, tied together yet separated.

Mary and I sewing the string to the grid after tieing it to the pages

Tomorrow we will make a cover. It is all very exciting. See more on flickr.

IN THE TRENCHES, Hart Island, New York

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I am working right up until my deadline. Mary is coming to Phoenix tomorrow, and up until 7 p.m. I still had not finished all the pages. A lot of other things got accomplished: shopping for book cover materials, cleaning the house in preparation for her visit, grouting the bathtub.... but today I had to have all the pages done. We will only have five days to bind the book, IN THE TRENCHES, Hart Island, New York, and we still have to create the cover... but that is another story.

So today I started out recreating the back of the wonderful little Russian language cards I have in my drawer of ephemera. They were just perfect for this page, except the text on the back was upside down (so you could turn it over for easy studying). I wanted to be able to read the back through the paper, so you could know what was on the front in Russian. This page started out with an ink jet printout of a baby being delivered with forceps. This image is from a medical book from the 17th century. (It was printed on tracing paper and glued to the page.) It was so round and flower like, it reminded me of a rose bud, and so I added petals to give the feeling of a bloom, a bloom that sadly died all too fast, just like cut flowers. I wanted a line of text to fit into the stitched area and Todd suggested the delivery doctor's sad expression of "I am sorry to have to tell you..." It was perfect. I had added the dandelion (rub on) looking blossom to symbolize the fragility of life and the feeling that these dead babies memories have been blown away like the tiny spores of the flower.

This page faces the very, very somber photo transfer of parents mourning their dead baby. To me all they heard from the doctor's message was dead, dead, dead.... I could not bear to add anything else for their sorrow is all to overwhelming.

detail of transfer

I had not had great success with doing the transfers, but today for some reason it all came together. Maybe it has something to do with the cold weather we are experiencing.

So I admit, I was inspired by an artist that I have just found online who does a collage a day. This prompted me to make a small collage for the last page. I keep feeling like these "lost" children, these forgotten, had families who must have written letters, and communicated about their experience.

There is this empty feeling in me when I think that they never got to read a book, or go to school, or play, it's all so sad. I take some of this personally as I miscarried two babies in the early stages of my pregnancies, and sometimes I think of what they might have been had they not been flushed out of my body so spontaneously and prematurely and subsequently flushed down the toilet.

To symbolize the numerous babies that have been buried at Hart Island I just drew counting marks over and over and over.

This is the end of my pages. I cannot wait to see Mary and all the wonderful work she has done. She inspires and amazes me.

Friday, October 23, 2009


A quick sketch for a local health magazine for an article about bread. It was just so much fun to think about.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Here is some helpful advise for those attending the gocco printmaking workshop of Story Book Artists. This group was formed as a way to bring artists in the community together to share ideas and inspiration. This is our first event and I am excited to welcome you and hope we have a great experience working together. After the event we will collect one print from each person attending and we will work in earnest on getting a local show here in downtown Phoenix.

How to use the gocco "machine":

Before you start thinking about your artwork you can watch this short video on etsy that shows the whole process of making a gocco print.
Please note: we do not have the little strips of goo that keep the colors separate that they are showing in the video, so if you are using multiple colors, you may have some bleed into each other (actually, this could be a cool effect).

A few things to keep in mind:
For our first attempt in this gocco workshop we will be making one plate each. That means that it would be easiest to think of your design as a one color image like this:

If you are interested in using more than one color, plan out your design so that you can ink up one plate with multiple colors like this:

We will not be doing multiple plates to make designs like this (but maybe on our next workshop we can try it):

You can also hand-color your prints after you make one solid print like this:

About creating your template:
The final size of your print will be 4" x 6", so make your live area (the area that will print) within 3.5" x 5.5". Print your template right reading (that means if you are using any words you can read them regular, they do not have to be flopped). It is best to use a laser print or a photocopy and not an inkjet print, so if you only have an inkjet printer, make your art and then get a photocopy of it at the library or at kinkos. Keep in mind that solid black art for your template will work the best. If you have Photoshop or an editing program on your computer you can convert an image and give it an intense black and white brightness/contrast and maybe even use the rubber stamp filter to get your design to look like this:

You do not want to use an image that has shades of grey, like this, as that will not translate as a plate and you will get a lumpy looking, messy design:

Other information:
They say you can get 50 pulls from one inking... I think that is a bit high, but 30 is not unbelievable if you ink it up good. We will be supplying 10 sheets for each person. If you want to do more or use other paper, you will need to bring your own.

For the sake of time and cost we would like to limit each person to doing 30 prints and then allowing someone else to go. You can keep your plate in a plastic bag and if there is time, do more later. It will cost $10 each to cover supplies.

Some gocco artists on etsy:
I am linking to a few artists who sell there gocco work on etsy as examples. Please remember that these artist's works are copyrighted and cannot be duplicated.

artist inkmeup – single color gocco print
artist jenny s – single color gocco print
artist amanda blake – hand colored gocco print
artist jose pulido – multi colored gocco print

If you have any questions send me an e-mail. Thank you.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


my first batch

Part of the getting together to do art with Todd is sharing food and cooking. We both love to try new recipes. A few weeks ago, inspired by the fact that the local bakery is now charging $2 for one english muffin, I decided to try my own. Following a recipe borrowed from Clotilde at Chocolate and Zuchinni, and her inspiration adapted from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, I made my very first batch.

They were a bit dry and the dough too stiff. And I did what both of them suggested and instead of just cooking them on the stove top, I too, baked them for a little in the oven. Not needed. I made another batch a week later and used more milk, less flour and cooked them only in the pan. They were great.


Well, it is not quite round is it? When I got to the ceramic studio and opened this up it seems some of the clay around the top of the triangle slumped down a bit from the week before. Also the planning was not quite perfect and the circumference of the circle was not quite large enough to make it to the top. So I added more clay to fix the slumps and then did some decorative work by piercing the outer wall in a dot pattern, mainly to eliminate the possibility of it exploding. This piece is a replica of an exercise that i did a long, long time ago. Working out some of the things I did in the past sometimes helps me understand how I came to love working with clay. The three dimensionality of it is what I find the most interesting. And its wonderful flexibility.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


When we lived in Brooklyn in 2001, I wanted to create an identity and design for Jake and I that was personal. Using our initials, the PS and JS logos were created. We did not use them much as Jake was working full time at NYIT (New York Institute of Technology) and I was freelancing mostly for corporate accounts on Long Island. Then the World Trade Center was hit and a lot of things got put on hold. After that year we moved back to Long Island. I shelved the design and thought about its resurfacing again one day.

Now, here in the desert of Arizona, we are making a more determined focus on doing fine art and it was time to revive the sleeping logos. Jake has just launched a matching blog, STUDIO JS, to show his work.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


a three part medal

Questions: who did this belong to? Can you figure anything out from these clues yet? I will be posting some of the story soon. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Today was spent putting together an artist statement and bio. I gathered up info from my websites and blogs, along with looking at what some other artists do when they compose these kinds of writings. Like many of my artist friends and colleagues I am a shamefully negligent promoter of my own art.

Put someone else's product in my hands and I will have tons of ideas to help them promote themselves, make a website, blog, where to take it, who to call, how to brand... but for myself I seem to feel an enormous amount of shyness and cultural pressure to "not be such a show off." I am also struggling with where to start. Do you cold canvas galleries? Do you begin in your own backyard? Will you look better in a foreign country? Who really wants my work? Who is interested in this topic, style, media? There are so many things to think about.

Tomorrow I will be sending out two applications for submission of my work. I think I am on the right track.

Friday, September 25, 2009


A change of pace today. Doing art with Todd in the morning. I like it. We ate some english muffins from M J Bread (absolutely delicious). The weather was nice and we left the door open, something that does not happen in Phoenix too often.

Continuing with the next piece of evidence, exhibit no. eleven. A piece of jewelry that almost seemed burnt and pulled apart at both the top and bottom of the design. Very delicate and loopy, I enjoyed the flow of the metal and the shadows it created. Todd said we should push ourselves further and not be afraid of using dark color and shadows. Todd is layering water colors, transparent textured layers, which he will be experimenting with.

Monday, September 21, 2009


The dominoes were placed in the grate by some anonymous hand. We don't know if they were old when they were placed there, or if they got old sitting in the grate for over 40 or 50 years. When Mary found them they looked almost burnt, the white paint on the recesses was partially worn away, the edges cracked and the pieces broken. What significance did they have and why were they hidden with the other more valuable items? That is part of our mystery.

Using oil pastels I started sketching one of the pieces. Layering the colors the domino looked exceedingly bright, at first orange and red, then a layer of greens and blues to make it dark, it began to get muddy. Hesitatingly I added black and it instantly gave it the contrast to bring the piece some dimension. While doing the tiny 4 x 4 inch canvas I made up more of the story in my mind...

To help with the boredom aboard the Arabella, Patrick Hart had a box of dominoes. They were not new, they came in a leather box which was worn with age on the edges. He gently laid down the pieces against his opponents, ace to ace, deuce to deuce, holding the "trial" and hoping to use it before someone else went out. "The luck of the Irish" a deckhand yelled when Patrick won a game. But what kind of luck was it that forced his family to flee from famine and cholera?

And so he kept busy trying to forget the sadness on that long, arduous voyage to America.

See the series so far here.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


We spent a few hours today getting some prints done for my husband, Jacob (who is also an artist). Our friend, Mary C. Leto, will be taking a booth at In the Spirit, the Art and Craft of Hand Papermaking, sponsored by Friends of Dard Hunter, in Atlanta. She kindly offered to take some of our work with her. Since this is a papermaking conference we bought some handmade paper at the Paper Studio, a local paper and printing space, run by Cindy Iverson.

Jake said "What results will I accomplish today? The beauty of the handmade paper is that uncertainty, that imperfection and this is how I approach my prints. I have a general idea, carve it out, sometimes changing in midstream and the result is almost secondary. I enjoy the harmonious balance of ink on paper and how it tells stories on so many levels."

View more of the prints on flickr.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I love the feel of clay and the way you can manipulate it into a three dimensional space. I have missed that feeling and so signed myself into an open studio space. Most of the people in the class are potters on the wheel with the exception of one man and myself. I stood in the back room and started to create two ideas that have been in my mind for a long time. I like the idea of forms within forms, especially with clay, because suspending a platform in the center of another shape seems to defy gravity.

sketch for work in progress

The Venus of Willendorf has always been one of the pieces of ancient art that is very compelling to me. I image the person who created her, holding her in her hands, proud of her creation. She is so primitive and yet so sophisticated that I am compelled to make my own version of her... but in my version she is made of clay, she is a rattle, filled with clay beads, unfired clay that i wrap up in layers of newspaper to be fired out in the kiln. So i made two pinch pots and scored and slipped them together and paddle her little body into a preliminary shape to be continued next week.

Sunday, September 13, 2009



Part of the "job" of making art is also the marketing of it. There are many ways to get your work on the internet and do some self promotion. For the portraits of ageism I decided to do a simple glossy post card. There are so many coffee shops and venues here in Phoenix where I pick up other people's cards, I thought, why not do some of my own. So today I made a card which I will be sending to the printer for 500 copies. If you would like to see the portraits you can go to the website about the movie CUT BACK: facing ageism or flickr and view them there. If you are interested in showing them please send me an email. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


nothing to mark the graves

In creating this page Mary wanted to show how the babies at Hart Island really had no place for someone to see where they were buried. She writes on the tissue-paper, thin "ghost" of a tombstone "NO story, NO obituary, NO service, NO headstone, NO marker, NO visitors, NO mourner, NO notice, NO testimonial, NO flowers." Their names are written across the page with historic information collaged onto tombstone shapes. Faint outlines of what might have been indicating a certain emptiness and loneliness on this page.

hand drawn coffins and bones

Here Mary has drawn an open trench filled with the tiny boxes of baby coffins, at the base broken and bones spilled onto the landscape. Because of shear lack of space the trenches at Hart Island are turned over every so many years to make room for more burials.

Out of plain manila folders she had created a truly authentic toe tag with accurate information about a baby who died on Nov. 25 1898.

She used rubber stamps, wire, printed and cut pages, oil pastels and colored pencil to complete the piece.

All photos and artwork in this post property of Mary C. Leto © 2009


Each trench can contain 1000 bodies, so to indicate the numbers I stacked the cutout pages on top of one another and stamped a baby's head on the top of each. Using an old children's primer for the pages I thought that these children never had a chance to grow up, to go to school, to play, to learn to read....

There are hand written names of babies listed at the top of the page written one on top of the other as that is how they are buried and it is hard to know exactly where they are. (now these bones have been turned into the soil many times)

On this page I used rubber stamps, stencils, colored pencil, sharpie and staples.

When I was little my dad used to say that if you hit someone your hand would stick out of the grave. I used to believe it, I don't know why. I never saw a hand sticking out of the grave, and we lived near two large cemeteries in Brooklyn and Queens. We even walked through as a shortcut to get to the bus sometimes, but I just never thought about it... or maybe I believed no one ever hit anyone. I wrote on the page ever so faintly, "Why did he say that?" I was just imagining for this page tiny ghost hands reaching up. I would surely remember them then.

Using colored pencil and making trenches out of the backside of the stapled page I wanted to protect the edges and used crystal lacquer to seal them in.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Saw the exhibit called Nooks and Crannies yesterday at the Phoenix Public Library (Burton Barr) showing the paintings of Barbara Kemp Cowlin. They include a lot of familiar corners to us living here, the spaces from the Phoenix Art Museum. In her own words Barbara says "I paint inconspicuous places in public spaces. Although overlooked by most, these special places have an inner glow, a strange and ethereal quality that I am moved to express in my work. I am most inspired by spaces with an air of mystery, a sense that there is a story to be told. Turning a corner and seeing a vision that is as beautiful as it is unexpected takes my breath away. I want my viewers to experience this." (from her blog)
I was very moved by her work, so if you get a chance go see it. (open till Oct 22)

Thursday, August 27, 2009


If you look close you can see two figures, each carrying a book under their arm walking to the right.


Mary sent me some photos by email of what she has worked on. I am amazed and awed by her work. When ever I see what she has done it inspires me to work even harder. She is truly one of my muses and an incredibly talented artist.

She has created a series of trenches using staples, some new, some fading into the landscape....

on the other side small bones surface after trenches are reworked....

close up
All photos and artwork in this post property of Mary C. Leto © 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Mary and I decided that the book needed to have some facing pages that go together along with the individual pages we are creating. That made me think that maybe a line up of baby feet with toe tags would be a good idea for that, but I wasn't sure how I would accomplish it. I thought, when a baby dies it would have to go to the morgue first so I imagined a row of feet. But I did not want to put them in that sterile environment so instead I laid them out on the soil of Hart Island, the last bit of sun shining on the little bodies before they are placed into the ground. (I am taking artistic license, because they come to Hart Island in their little coffins, but this was just how I felt.) Under each pair of feet I put the place where the baby died, and on each toe tag their name and date of death. I used pastel chalk to create the sky, brushed all the dust off and sealed it with acrylic medium. I printed the feet on tracing paper and cut and pasted them onto the page. The IDs are jewelry tags.

According to historic records most of the people buried on Hart Island were of some christian denomination. So on the front side of the page I wanted to create a prayer for the dead. I used a St. Joseph's Missal and cut out passages including the mass for the dead pages, made them into little strips and glued them to the page in a circle pattern, constant cycle, flow, life. For these little babies their lives were cut short and some were stillborn, so I blew on red ink to symbolize the blood of childbirth. I thought of their little souls going to purgatory, not yet old enough to be baptized.

On the back side of the spread it was time for the burial. The shovel is a block print I created. I imagined the prisoners in their denim uniforms digging in the soil singing "Swing Lo, Sweet Chariot" (another area of artistic license) while they worked. This was a song that was very important to me as a child, but I don't know why or even where I learned it, or first heard it. (note: I just realized I made a mistake with the words, oops. It is supposed to read comin' for and I stamped coming forth. I am going to get some water and see if I can brush it out.)

Mary is working on her pages and we are hoping to get together very soon to start the cover and binding.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Last night we had another fine get together of art and eating. By fortunate coincidence my granddaughter happened to be here and she partakes in the event whole heartedly. Her oil pastel, a still life of corks, was amazing. At the end of the evening when we read our coffee fortunes she was instrumental in finding more imagery than we had imagined in each cup. My fellow prognosticator, Todd, was painting a beautiful miniature scene of Venice where he will be spending some time. Jake was quietly sketching, but the Yankee game playing in the background was a great distraction for him. (It lasted 5 hours and 33 minutes a total of 15 innings) The rest of us ignored it and worked on our projects. I wanted to continue with the "Domino Mystery" objects and so I chose my medium of oil pastels and colored pencils and started to transpose the tiny porcelain portrait on to a 4" x 4" canvas. In my head I am making up the story and so continues the gathering of evidence.....

Born in Ireland in 1801, in a small village on the west coast called Mulrany (Maoil Raithne, hill of ferns) on the Bay of Clew, where Irish is the predominate language, lived a young woman named Mary who was married to Cornelius Hart. Some of her children escaped the Great Hunger by securing passage to America. On the long voyage aboard the Arabella, leaving from Liverpool on May 14, 1846, her son, Patrick, carried her portrait with him. He never saw his poor mother again and so this little piece of clay was forever dear to his heart.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


This week I worked on the next set of pages for the artist book IN THE TRENCHES, Hart Island, New York that I am collaborating on with Mary C. Leto. I wish she could be here with me so that I can ask her if she likes this or that element as I am putting the pieces together.

On pages three and four I decided that I wanted to feel the perspective of the mother. Her baby has died and she has to tell the family, maybe they live far away as these baby names are from the 1800s. Maybe they immigrated from Norway, she had to hand write "the baby died of marasmus." (Marasmus is one component of protein-energy malnutrition.) I put three babies in the trench on the front and back side. I know... I know... they did not have photos like this in the 1800s, but I wanted some kind of keepsake photo to make the baby seem real. They are added on with old photo album corners. Each edition will have a different photo and each photo is hidden behind the overlay of blue rice paper.

I included a poem I wrote and hand typed on my old Royal typewriter. I like typing on it and making mistakes and having to backspace and XXX them out. Above the poem is an antique newsprint block of a baby's head that I just love. The other text is hand stamped with rubber stamp alphabet letters of the trench number that the babies are buried in and their names are printed under the overlay on the back side: Charles Dempson, James Fellows and Annie Riokence.

The front, page five, incorporates the idea of a bird. This symbol represents the freedom of release that death gives to the body for me. When my grandmother died and we all came home from her funeral as we walked in the door a bird flew in, circled the house once and flew out. When that happened I felt that my grandmother was making one farewell gesture before leaving us forever. I had this old newspaper that was from the 1940s, but it was celebrating a centennial and all the front pages of the sections included some 1800s date in bold type. I wanted to indicate the religious icon of a cross (as the policy of Hart Island is to bury whole bodies, not to cremate out of respect for the religious beliefs of those buried there) which was created by rolling on block printing ink. I used a gold wire to attach a different two sided catholic icon to each page.

On the back side, page 6, there are listed four baby's names: Ethel Ward, Francis Jones, John Moore and Nellie Hannan. Envisioning the children wrapped in muslin, I found some antique gauze that was very well preserved, so I made a figure and wrapped it up in the gauze, aged it with stamp pad ink and stitched it up to hold it all together. Dabbing some red ink on the area of the heart gave me the sense of sadness as when one says "my heart bleeds for you" and went along with the iconic religious theme of the other side (bleeding heart of jesus). The trench is more like a bed and the figure is removable. Also attached with a paper clip is the actual printout of one of the listed names from a copy of the ledger it was recorded in.

Note: I am indicating page numbers only to keep track of what I have done. Our assigned number is 16 each. When we get together next we will view all the pages and mix them accordingly.