When I was little I had an old dictionary that my father repaired with packing tape. It was heavy and smelled of rabbit-skin glue. Each section was marked by shiny black tabs with gold letters. The pages were tissue thin, with intricate engravings of creatures and objects embedded in the text. I hadn’t learned to read yet, and leafing through it was like entering a cabinet of wonders.
My work originates from that early experience in visual thinking and sensual engagement. Words are inscrutable until you learn to read them, but the visual object is expressive according to your immediate perception. I think fragile paper edges, adhesive residues, mold patterns and ink blots all signify in another version of language. Asemic writing is always illegible, but in context, never meaningless. Like abstractions drawn on dictionary pages, it asks for the curiosity and intuitive understanding that comes with looking at inscriptions on clay tablets and ancient manuscripts. Yet, coming from DaDaism, it’s also playful and open ended.
I use dried gourds because they’re delightful containers. And, I’ve thought at length about the verbal dexterity of pre-kindergartners, our modern notion of dyslexia as a disability, the power of oral traditions, symbols, and other mnemonic devices. Perhaps as a process-oriented artist, these thoughts come from my work, or instigate it, but the gourd books speak to their connection. Spilling out pages of found words, or Asemic writing, like literacy seeds they create a metaphysical through-line from pre-literacy to the written word.
Donna Maria de Creeft has worked in a variety of media since she graduated with a BFA from Empire State College in 1998. Ms. de Creeft’s mixed-media works and artist’s books have been exhibited at multiple venues including A.I.R. Gallery, Blue Mountain Gallery, Central Booking Gallery, The Center for Book Arts, Proteus Gowanus, Jersey City University, Fairleigh Dickenson University, PS 1 Museum, The Barcelona Book Fair, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, PS 122, The Gowanus Dredgers Boathouse and Red Hook Open Studios.
Ms. de Creeft’s works are in the permanent collections of the University of Southern Maine, Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital, The Center for Book Arts, and the library collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Bryn Mawr College and Rutgers University.
In 1998 she was the artist-in -Residence at the University of Southern Maine. In April of 2019, she was resident artist at The Gowanus Dredgers Boat House, and in June at the Mary A. Whelan/Portside.