My goal for my residency (2021) at Fruitlands Museum farmhouse, once occupied by the Alcott family during a failed Utopian experiment, was to bring the words on Louisa May Alcott back into the house for viewers to contemplate as they walked though. While the house often focuses on Bronson Alcott and his failed Utopian experiment, I was interested in the impact that had on children who lived out the experience in a heighted emotional way. I used the diaries written by Louisa for this text. Diary entries are the intersection between thoughts and spoken expression. The text in Louisa May Alcott’s diary written at Fruitlands in 1843 impacted me in an emotional way. Louisa was about 10 years old which is a pivotal time in a young girl’s life. It is an age of observation, emotion, hormonal development and questioning. I see a young girl finding self-awareness under a strict moral education by her father who encouraged her to express, question and engage in dialogue about personal morality. The diary offers what I find to be a balance between spirituality and morality. They also seem to be a balance of mood. Often she questions if she is “good” or not and often “cries” as she contemplates her character. She also finds pure joy, spirituality and transcendence in nature and poetic inspiration.
This project, a series of densely sewn samplers or works on cloth, used mostly quotes from the diaries of Louisa May Alcott during this period. I used a variety of stitching methods, color palettes and sizes/shapes for each quote. I also included two pieces that explored my own experiences for self-awareness or thoughts I use in diaries.
All of the quotes by L. Alcott used in the work are on pages that are lost from the original manuscript. In some I was inspired by Shaker gift drawings and the incredible mark-making that inspires spirit. I used other pages from her diary to try to piece together what the original handwriting may have looked like. Her handwriting is visually expressive and authentic to emotion of the moment of her thoughts. For others I used color to create a mood that the quote suggests to me, or used no color to suggest the white linen dresses or night-time thoughts.