Words are free, photomontage





'True Poems flee;' These Words are free



Emily Dickinson wrote:

         To see the Summer Sky
         Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie -
         True Poems flee.

          The essential quality of these words, their spare yet transformational authority, prompted this interactive, performative work.   
         I began by making paper. Inspired by John Cage’s series of Edible Drawings, I incorporated bits of plant matter gathered each day. Unlike those filigree-like compositions by Cage, my papers also contain cotton rag and mulberry pulp as a substantive base. And yet, by including seeds, skins, flowers, leaves and stems from meal and medicinal preparations and garden walks, I do mean to impart the mutable sensibilities of personal, daily activities.

The highest purpose is to have no purpose at all. This puts one in accordance with nature, in her manner of operation.
John Cage, Silence: Lectures and Writings


public performance, Sacramento State University, 2018

inscribing handmade paper with visitor-chosen word
International Rose Garden for Peace, Sacramento State Capitol Plaza

         Once the word is chosen, it is written in cursive writing on a handmade paper card. The card is then placed in a glassine envelope for safekeeping and offered to the one for whom it was so inscribed.
         With these elements and actions, I hope to draw attention to the relevance of individual and collective words, as well as the material nature of writing. By situating these interchanges in public gardens the fertile potency of words is also emphasized.



         With a portable desk, a specially made box for the papers, a dictionary (for those who may like to browse), and a set of variously colored ink pens, I situate myself in garden settings.
         I look to engage passers-by in conversations about words and ask that they select a favorite word, a word used often to describe one's life or self, a word just recently learned, or a word that gives pleasure as syllables are formed and intoned.

handmade paper with visitor-selected word

inscribed handmade paper card gift


What 'self' is it that stirs to life when meeting someone else's art?
The self that trades in common stock, I'd say, in things like
air, light, fire and song, in things that nature made...

Lewis Hyde
Common as Air: Revolution, Art and Ownership

         In addition to the influences of Emily Dickinson and John Cage, this project was inspired by the writings of Lewis Hyde, particularly with regard to the prescribed, revitalized creative commons.
         'True Poems flee;' These Words are free establishes a site for exchanging words in multiple languages, for sharing thoughts about writing, language, literacy and art-making, and for the art of conversation. In the spirit of the communal roots of creativity, it offers the faceted gift of expressive activity, interpersonal connection, and the art object itself to all who visit the garden.                            -

with visitors at the International Rose Garden for Peace
State Capitol Plaza, Sacramento, CA


Selected bibliography

Cage, John, Silence: Lectures and Writings, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, CT, 1973

Dickinson, Emily, Ed., Johnson, Thomas H., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Little
Brown and Co., Boston, Toronto, London, 1960

Hyde, Lewis, What is the Public? The Case for a “Rich Common,”
World Intellectual Property Review,
March / April 2012, www.worldreview.com
- The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, Vintage Books, New York,1979
 - Common as Air: Revolution, Art and Ownership, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2010

Toale, Bernie, The Edible Drawings of John Cage,
 http://www.arts.ucsb.edu/faculty/reese/classes/papermaking edible%20drawings.pdf

image / photo credits

Valerie Constantino, Words are free, photomontage, 2018
(background garden image, modified, Aimaimyi, GFDL, http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)

Danh Cao, all performance images


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