The Abecedary Project:|
I wanted to create a series of kimonos based on the alphabet, called an "Abecedary". I started,
as might be expected, with the letter "A". Once I worked my way through to "C", I realized two
things: (1) I wanted to involve others, and (2) this would not be a quick project.
In May 2019 I attended a reception for my British artist friend Eileen Hogan at the Yale Center
for British Art. At the exhibit I became fascinated by her "Poetry Box." Eileen had created a
contemporary version of a nineteenth-century Japanese game that required collecting 100
different poems, so she selected the first poem herself, then invited ninety-nine other people
to choose a poem. I returned home inspired to invite others to make choices for my Abecedary
project. With a group of 23 friends in hand, I randomly assigned a single letter of the alphabet
to each, and then invited them to send me three or more words beginning with that letter. One
word was to be something botanical; another was to be an adjective, adverb, or active verb;
and the last was to be an object. No further guidance was given. Their responses delighted and
surprised me with their variety, unexpectedness, and charm.
To take a set of seemingly disconnected words and weave them into a single, cohesive work of
art is no small task. By researching each word, I unearthed obscure and sometimes cryptic facts,
which encouraged further investigation into myths, legends, and fairytales. I felt that I was
living out an experience similar to that of a Babylonian scholar I came across in my research,
who, in referring to the making of the Gates of Ishtar, said "The artisan combines things and
something radically different comes out of it." That's certainly what I've found!
The Abecedary project has been my focus for over two years. My deepest thanks to each of you
who contributed words and for your patience in seeing the results. An exhibition of all kimonos
is scheduled for December 2021 in Norfolk, Virginia, USA.
Caroline Garrett Hardy, 2021