Kathleen Mangan, the Executive Director of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation discusses the role of handwriting in Lenore Tawney’s daily life and in her artistic practice. Tawney was a regular correspondent and diarist who filled dozens of tiny journals with fine script, but she also incorporated handwriting in collages and constructions. Fine, thread-like script was superimposed upon lines of text from old manuscripts; written lines were piled atop one another so they could not be deciphered; and at other times delicate lines on translucent paper were turned upside-down. Tawney’s goal was to make “visionary” experiences “visible.”Read More
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Helen A. Harrison, the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center weighs in on the intersection between Jackson Pollock's art and handwriting, such as his "use of calligraphic imagery as an integral compositional element" in some of his drawings that contradicts the awkward, halting script used outside of his artwork for personal and professional correspondence.Read More
This Saturday is our culminating event, Pen to Panel, with the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. We'll be joined by five wildly creative minds for an hour of conversation about the past, present, and future of handwriting. We are thrilled to be hosting the event at The Sketchbook Project's newly-renovated home, which houses thousands of sketchbooks from around the globe. Below are the brief bios of our panelists, as well as a few links so that you can get a little lost, and find much more. But if you're in town, come see and hear from them in person. Did we mention the beer is on us?Read More
Handwriting Continues to Prove Its Nimble Nature • A Conversation with Curator of Manuscripts at Mary Savig
"Technologies of communication, from telegrams to texting, have long threatened the written word. And yet, handwriting continues to prove its nimble nature. The craft of handwriting has flourished online, especially on social media. Artists, thinkers, and makers alike are experimenting with penmanship in innovative ways. Along these lines, the Archives continues to digitize and make our vast handwritten records available online for new generations to discover."Read More
"Designed by Princeton Architectural Press, the book operates much like a gallery exhibition, privileging the visual over the verbal so that we may take in the high quality images as art objects before reading the accompanying “wall text” that complements and situates them."Read More
Working on Pen to Paper was interesting for me because it brought Burchfield’s handwriting into a larger context. While some artists took time and care in crafting letters to friends, Burchfield had little concern for the elegance and precision of the written word.Read More
This project reminded me of the actual, physical connection between writing, writer, and words. It’s especially telling in the context of someone like Whistler, who was such a clever writer and for whom words were his weapon of choice in his battles against the (to his mind, at least) unappreciative British public.Read More
"It’s concerning that kids growing up today might not be able to read letters, read these manuscripts. Flavin’s early text is so difficult to read, you almost feel shut out. He has all these flourishes, especially the way he ends a word. It’s very sad when this kind of information becomes inaccessible."Read More
Is handwriting really a lost art? Mary Savig, Curator of Manuscripts at The Smithsonian's Archives of American Art, says no. And we agree, which is why we have bonded, and for two months, banded together to help celebrate the launch of their latest anthology, Pen to Paper. Edited by Savig, this art object brings together worlds of insight on handwriting: the personal with the professional, and the past as translated by the present. Published by the one and only Princeton Architectural Press, Pen to Paper showcases letters written between American artists, their intimates, and colleagues. In this online exhibition, you will find interviews and reflections from contributors expanding on their essays in the book alongside a selection of letters from the Archives.
"And yet, handwriting continues to prove its fluidity. The craft of handwriting had flourished online, especially on social media. Artists, thinkers, and makers alike are experimenting with penmanship in innovative ways. Demonstrations of calligraphy can be found on YouTube and hand-scribed cards flourish on Etsy. In the past few years, curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist has rebooted autograph collecting by posting handwritten notes--usually jotted down on Post-It Notes--by contemporary artists on Instagram, where anyone is welcome to add comments. With this in mind, let's not mourn handwriting as a lost at, or even as a dying art. As snail mail fades from contemporary culture as a primary mode of communication. the vast array of handwritten letters in the Archives of American Art remains relevant and ready for new generations to discover. Let's celebrate how imaginative correspondence now exists in material and digital forms, posing new ways of thinking about art, history, and culture. In the spirit of this book, pick up your pen and write a letter today. What stories will your handwriting tell?"
- Mary Savig, Introduction, Pen to Paper (page 23)