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 dedicated 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.
If it wasn’t for the water that its’ pages absorbed. It wouldn’t become the flower it is.
Relicaptyia is a made up word following a conversation I had with my talented poet friend, Martha Silano. I sent her a list of made up words rooted in the word Relic. She wrote back that the Latinate suffixes reminded her of Rome, the ruins that were left after the empire fell. We both agreed that now when we travel to Europe we are looking for ruins, recreating a fragmented past. In that sense, she suggested I’m intentionally making something new by taking something away. Like reverse ruin, that maybe I’m a (w)recklivist or reliarchvist. So I asked her if that makes what I do a Relicapydia and she replied that the name reminded her of a beautiful, exotic flower or a butterfly – she suggested Relicaptyia.