B. Penn

Letters from Home: Collaborative Identities 

A continued interest in text and language and excitement to create another installation space initiated the development of Letters from Home: Collaborative Identities. This piece includes alternative methods of printing (the texts on fabric and paper) and is an exploration of the words and life of the artist's paternal poet grandmother, Aileen Edwards Hammond (Penn). While the artist's grandmother died before she was born, she connected with her grandmother through her poems and notes. Emily Dickinson is also clearly an influence here as well, but becomes less prevalent in the sense that the piece attempts a more personal connection by linking both poets to the artist. 

Multiple poems are used but all refer to ideas and experiences about love, but also of love of artistic freedom and female identity that move beyond romantic love. The collaboration unites the artist to both women visually and emotionally, when she decided to use the small plaster casts of heads of three women, littered about on the floor like an archeological history – some broken or split in half. Note the dyed rag rugs below the cast figures belonged to the artist's maternal grandmother, Grace N. Schlafer, so here was another female the artist connected to. This piece in some ways is about unresolved identity and seeking a wholeness by meshing the spirit of the influential personalities together with the artist's own poetic spirit. The poems are inscribed with a wood-burning tool into boxes and plaques that wrap around the lower edges of the space. Texts from both poets are printed lightly on the ascending and descending scroll, that opens to a spilling on the floor of text and image, containing lines from both women's poems. The chosen poems speak to the parallels of the artist together with the two poets' artistic and romantic insights. 

Paradox

 

We shall not speak love 

We shall never name it, 

For even a word 

Confines and circumscribes 

When it is heard. 

But gentleness like summer rain 

Falls from the center 

Of your touch. 

And in your eyes such 

Tenderness that holds my heart as still as silence is. 

Hushed is the word, 

This love not spoken 

That moves like an undertow unheard.    

 

– A.E.Hammond 

 

This Other

 

For it is not far to go 

Or even dark or very steep 

To sometimes find the immediate 

In a strange and distant sleep, 

And death's a barn—yard fowl 

Cock crowing in some foreign hour 

And I am old and very tired 

Of budding tree and fragrant flower. 

And life's concentric wisdom rolls 

Across my heart to free my soul.    

 

– A.E.Hammond

© 2020 Barbara Penn designed by Alex Almli