Invisible Women (2013)

Invisible Women is a project reacting to the stories from “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino. Recognizing the lack of diverse female representation in the book itself, I was inspired by Calvino’s writing style to write short stories about interesting women in a similar style to how he described his cities in his book. Invisible Women was then relief printed on a Vandercook Press and hand-bound and assembled in an edition of 30.

8 pages, ~5″ x 7″.

Bonus pictures of their construction:

And here’s the text that was paired with the illustrations within the book:

Francesca is a woman obsessed with observing. Possessing a keen mind, she sees how one action is predicted by another, which in turn informs other actions and events until a tapestry of happening is woven. She wanders the streets, observing the webs she sees connecting each action to another; a child steals an apple from a cart, which distracts the seller, who misses his daughter slinking into the darkness of an alleyway in the arms of a lover, which is observed by the baker woman, who informs the tailor’s wife, who knocks over a pail of milk in her rush to inform a confidant about this latest event. Francesca watches as the milk flows between the cobblestones, forming a pearly lattice, echoing the pathways of her mind that endlessly weave together the mundanities of life into a predictable pattern. The spilt milk will have consequences also; before they occur, her mind is already performing complex calculations to predict the results of such an event.

Each night she returns home to record these events, motivated by neither a perverse sense of voyeurism nor an interest in gossip nor the desire to preserve history. For her, this study is strictly scientific. Her notebooks are filled with convoluted diagrams spanning decades of everyday life, each meticulously catalogued and frequently reexamined to find correlations between past and present events. Her conclusions and predictions she also catalogues, working well into the night to predict the course of the next day.

She carries out this project because she believes that it is the most important work in the world. One day, when her data is complete, she will have a finished map of human interaction and consequence. On that day she will finally be able to answer the most important question: what is it that makes life worth living?

In the market I happened upon Isme, a haggard woman shrouded in melancholy. She told me of a young woman, who each night would walk to a bridge spanning the river that bisected the city and there she would throw over the edge anything that caused her pain.

She began with love notes from an unfaithful lover that now filled her with anguish; those went into the water. She graduated to presents given to her by friends who had hurt her; those too were thrown over. Soon, every night she started bringing baskets filled with tokens of her displeasure: a pair of shoes that gave her blisters, a flower with thorns that had pricked her, a brush that had tugged too strongly on a knot of hair. All of these things she would cast into the dark water below and her mood would lift at the sound of the splash, leaving her clean and unburdened for the next day.

Despite her diligence, sadness continued to find her. Soon she was at the bridge grasping a rat that had chewed through a cupboard. Splash. The next night found her there holding a dog who had nipped at her fingers. Splash. One warm evening she invited her husband, a man who didn’t realize she knew about his mistress, for a moonlit stroll to the bridge. Splash. On a cold, wet night she found herself there grasping the hands of her two young daughters…

Here Isme paused in her retelling. Finally, eyes brimming, she said “In her rush to rid her life of everything that made her sad, somewhere along the way the young woman managed to rid herself of her happiness, too.” She moved to stand and I helped her up onto rickety feet. As she walked by me I saw her clutch a basket to her side. Inside was a dull knife, a folded piece of paper, a pair of children’s socks, some shoelaces, a dead bird.


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