My work investigates the everyday handwriting of 19th century Americans by recontextualizing historical artifacts in fields of color and gesture.I have examined collections in the Montana Historical Society, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and regional historical societies in many other states. I collect 19th century American penmanship manuals, arithmetic workbooks and handwritten ephemera. Through various digital and printmaking processes, I incorporate facsimiles into paintings. These transferred marks punctuate the picture plane. Experiencing the layered space of the painted canvas is analogous to peering back into time.
In sharp contrast to todayâ??s â??data streamsâ?? of keyboarded letters, there is an object-like quality to quoted text fragments. â??Drawnâ?? letters and numbers can be storytellers without being literal. And the signatures of ordinary people, their schoolbook exercises, and even their stray margin notes are revelatory. To me they narrate the conflicted Victorian longing for convention, alongside a passion for flourished excess.I am especially interested in ferreting out instances of deviation from Victorian writing standards. These tiny gestures express an improvisatory spirit at odds with strict rules of stylistic conformity. Here one can see the human impulse to let the mind stray, with pen in hand. My handdrawn meandering lines play with appropriated text and scribbles within each painting. The awkward marginalia and impulsive flourishes of past scribblers attest to the humanity of our ancestors, long gone. In my work, I want to remember that, despite the radical social tranformations that technology has brought, those ancestors are not so different from us.