This artist book is a memorial to those who died while homeless in Minnesota in 2018. The deluxe edition includes three elements: a tunic; 100 squares of “torn cloth;” and a bound book. On the list provided by the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless were 98 names and one infant boy. The 100th square represents the homeless people who died unseen and unreported.
The title of this piece is inspired by passages in the Bible and a Jewish custom of mourners tearing their clothing on the death of a loved one. According to chabad.org, the tearing of garments has a dual symbolism. It recognizes the loss, that our hearts are torn. “But ultimately, the body is also only a garment that the soul wears. Death is when we strip off one uniform and take on another. The garment may be torn, but the essence of the person within it is still intact.”
The sorrow I feel is over people who die while homeless. Those who literally freeze to death during a Minnesota winter, those who overdose, those whose health deteriorates from the stress of basic needs unmet. Those whose hearts give up after the trauma of childhood abuse.
It’s possible I knew some of these folks through my volunteering. Typically I know people only by their first names, like “Angela.” Was the beautiful young woman, struggling with her children and new husband to survive yet dreaming of becoming a motivational speaker, the “Angela Conway” on the list? Not that it matters. Whether or not I knew her doesn’t make her death at the age of 30 any less tragic. I have a special connection with Angela after carrying a sign with her name during the Homeless Memorial March in December 2018, down Nicollet, past the restaurants where homed people laughed and dined.
For the tunic I sewed together panels of Thai mulberry paper on which I had printed a woven pattern and the names of those who died while homeless in Minnesota in 2018. I used an intaglio printing technique to create the woven pattern. With an engraving tool I drew lines into a copper plate to create the pattern. For each panel I scraped ink into the grooves in the copper plate, wiped off all excess ink, then placed a dampened piece of Thai mulberry paper on top and ran it through the etching press.
I created photopolymer plates for the names and printed them using a Vandercook #4 letterpress at Minnesota Center for Book Arts.
The 100 squares were also created by engraving drypoint into copper plates and printing onto Thai mulberry paper.
In addition to the tunic and the 100 squares, “She Tore Her Clothes in Sorrow” includes a bound book, 10″ x 6″ closed and 20″ x 6″ open. The names of those who died while homeless in Minnesota in 2018 are printed at the top and bottom of the pages. The main text includes facts about homelessness in Minnesota, based on a 2018 Wilder Research study.
She Tore Her Clothes in Sorrow
Pen and ink, intaglio, letterpress, thread
Deluxe edition (labeled A – D, includes tunic, 100 squares, bound book within a handmade box): $900
Purchase the deluxe edition >
Standard edition (limited edition of 15, bound book alone): $175
Purchase the standard edition >
“She Tore Her Clothes in Sorrow” was a semifinalist for the 2020 MCBA Prize