I spent the last three years erasing a substantial anthology of 19th and 20th-century art. I used Barkeepers Friend to alter each page in turn, lavishing precise, focused energy on each subsequent page. I spent hours, even days, working on a single image, such as Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’Herbe or Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet, until many of them disappeared.
As I learned just how much pressure or moisture the pages could tolerate, details shifted and transformed. Many of the original subjects disappeared completely or dissolved into clouds of pale hues. A few pages tore; holes appeared; details of images in distinct sections developed new connections.
These metamorphoses seem dense with significance, and not only to my own formation. Many of the pictures represent common knowledge systems, whether studied in an art history class or encountered as a greeting card.