Arts in the Time of Covid-19: Installment 21, from Gallery at 14 Maple’s ‘Vanishing Worlds’ exhibit

During this difficult period, Morris Arts will do its best to be a resource for the arts community by sharing information about resources for artists as well as a sampling from Vanishing Worlds, our new exhibit at the Gallery at 14 Maple.


And here is the next of our daily glimpses of the Vanishing Worlds exhibit:

Diane Savona
Wool, thread
16” x 16”
Courtesy of the Artist


Bibliomania Tablet:  In 1809, the Rev. Thomas Frognall Dibdin published his book Bibliomania; or Book Madness. The black & white central image is from the frontpage of that book. But both the book fool image and the poem (around the edges) are taken from 1509 The Ship of Fools. The man is wearing a nightcap (to hide his ass’s ears) while a fool’s hood with bells hangs behind him, and he holds in his right hand a duster with which he swats at the flies that come to settle on his books. Some of the images in this tablet come from illustrations in the 1809 book.

Diane Savona
The Tablets: 
Ancient writing was preserved on durable clay tablets. These tablets are constructed in relatively fragile textiles to illustrate the precarious state of knowledge in our world. The tablet is designed in Photoshop and printed as outline images on cotton. Thickened dye colors are hand painted onto the cotton. The resulting image is hand embroidered. Imprint MT Shadow typeface is the basis of the lettering. Letters were condensed in the style of the mosaic wording of the Palatine Chapel in Palermo. The resulting illegibility is intentional, giving the viewer a sense of translating the tablet.

Artist Statement:
Ancient clay tablets give us information about our history. My embroidered tablets focus on communication history – on the ways we tell our story. The images are researched, designed, printed on cloth as line drawings, dyed and stitched. Just as clay tablet can be destroyed, knowledge can be lost, and some of the tablets deal with the loss of information. It seems fitting that this is conveyed in (what is viewed as) the much less durable medium of textiles.

As this series progressed, I changed my presentation. The earlier tablets are stretched over rigid composite materials. Later, I used many layers of wool, sewn tightly together, to create a firm backing for the images. This seems to be a more authentic material usage. 

Diane Savona is an artist, teacher and collector of domestic artifacts. She is a graduate of Montclair State University, with a BA in art. After many years of teaching art, she is now well into her second life as a full time studio artist. Her work has been shown in many group shows (including Art Quilt Elements, several NJ Arts Annuals, and the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, MA), invitational shows (including the Perkins Gallery, Collingswood, NJ, the Pierro Gallery of South Orange, NJ; Rahway Arts Guild, NJ;  Edna Carlsten Gallery, University of Wisconsin, and Bloomfield College, NJ), and in one woman shows (including Closet Archaeology, at the  Hermitage Museum, Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ;  Lambert Castle Museum in Paterson, NJ;  St Peters Church in NYC; and at ETS, Princeton, NJ). Her art has been featured in Fiber Arts Magazine, Quilting Arts Magazine, Fiber Art Now and in 500 Art Quilts, by Lark Books. She won a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation scholarship and residency at Peters Valley Art Center in Layton, NJ. As a committee member of Fiber Philadelphia 2012, she helped organize city-wide exhibits and curated Mending=Art. She has run workshops, presented digital shows of her work and helped people see the stories contained in ordinary objects.

Curator Yvette Lucas offers the following overview of the VANISHING WORLDS  exhibit:

Everything is transient; nothing remains the same. If anything looks solid and permanent, it is only an illusion since everything in the universe is in a constant state of flux—growing and shrinking, living and dying, breathing in and breathing out.
_______Ilchi Lee, on the second realization of Tao

This exhibit explores the ways that we experience transition and change, loss and growth through memories, mistakes, achievements, and time. By viewing these worlds that the exhibiting artists have revealed, we may be witnesses to those places or moments that have been lost or will be lost in future times. Change is inevitable but how we respond to it is a choice.

Some of our worlds are vanishing with the aid of human development of technology and industry. The environments that we inhabit have been greatly affected by our continued use and over consumption as portrayed in Susan Ahlstrom’s memorial to extinct species of birds in “Tower of Extinction.” Lisa G. Westheimer’s “Sponge Lamp” glows in an eerie light, like a lighthouse, warning us away from impending ecological disaster. Robert F Lach’s installation, “Dwell,” is made up of nests left empty by their inhabitants. “The Last of the Hawks”, a photo essay by Onnie Strother, laments the end of an era where newspapers support the livelihood of the people, who sell them on street corners. Those who are rapidly being replaced by cell phones and other electronic media.

The gift of memory gives us access to significant moments in our lives and transport us to our previous selves no longer defining but informing who we are now. In Kate Dodd’s “Scrapbooking” piece, images are cut into commercial scrapbook papers to reveal “unspoken truths that are disguised by the glossy “good time” veneer.” She reveals the memories which we hide when sharing our past. In Janet Boltax’s series, “Aging in America,” we encounter people who have lived over 90+ years. Through these portraits and narratives, we are invited to visit the days that enriched and shaped their lives. Philemona Williamson’s paintings of children on the brink of adolescence is both enchanting and slightly unnerving as we see children transitioning into beings that are self-aware of their growing bodies in her painting “Dusty Afternoon.” In Diane Savona’s “Tablet” series, she studies the history of communication on a global scale. From ancient civilizations to the present moment, Diane wants the viewer to know that “knowledge can be lost” as some of her tablets portray the destruction of ancient centers of knowledge throughout time.

When I view all these artworks there is a recurring thought that we too are vanishing and centuries from now all will be replaced. Bill Westheimer, in his series “Anthropocene” (the time period of humankind’s existence on the earth), gives us a vision of a future world without us. He has created fossils that are “imaginary records of flora and fauna that might be found in a future geologic era. They are evidence of what was and hints of how it might have been extinguished” after we too are gone.

                                                                                    ___Yvette Lucas, Curator