by Jen Bervin
The Dickinson Composites is an artist book that focuses on a series of large-scale quilts Jen Bervin made by embroidering the poet Emily Dickinson's unusual punctuation markings from her fascicles.
The box, printed with enigmatic red crosses and dashes, contains two sewn samples (excerpts made at the same scale, in the same materials using the same methods as the quilts), large prints of each quilt, and a nested booklet. Like Dickinson's manuscripts, the box and the works therein are encountered entirely without titles. In the booklet, an essay by Bervin elucidates Dickinson's variant marking system in her poetry manuscripts and provides further context for the quilts.
Bervin writes: "The Dickinson Composites are mends of omissions, samplers of "a system of Aesthetics - / Far superior to mine"*. Choosing to circumvent what seemed like an intractable editorial situation, I tried to make something as forceful, abstract, and generously beautiful as Dickinson's work is to me."
Each box includes:
A lignin-free 11 1/2 x 15 x 1 1/2 inch drop-front archival box printed with quilt-scale fascicle marks in red.
Two machine sewn and hand-embroidered samples–excerpts from Composites 28 and 38, made at the same scale, in the same materials using the same methods as the quilts. Images in the booklet show the hand-sewn sample in relation to the full quilt, with the excerpt area marked.
Large color prints of all six quilts: The Composite Marks of Emily Dickinson's Fascicle 16, 19, 28, 34, 38, and 40.
An unbound 16-page booklet with an essay on the variant marks, images of Dickinson's manuscript** poems, and process and installation images of the quilts.
The booklet is housed in a pocket printed with marks and sewn with a cotton tape lift.
* Emily Dickinson, Poem 137, "Flowers - Well - if anybody"
** The President and Fellows of Harvard College, Houghton Library, Harvard University, Harvard University Press, Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, and the Trustees of Amherst College generously gave their permission and to publish specific works in the edition.