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‘It Started with Aardvark’ Exhibit Opening in West Hartford

Camera, casement, cat’s cradle. Submitted image

‘It Started with Aardvark’ will open at the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society in conjunction with the celebration of Noah Webster’s 260th birthday.

Letter B, 250 Layers. Submitted image


We’re celebrating Noah Webster’s 260th birthday with an exhibit that utilizes his favorite thing: the dictionary!

“It started with Aardvark,” a series of 26 screen prints by artist Elizabeth Dove, will be on exhibit at the museum from Oct. 17 through December 2018. The exhibit officially opens the night of Tuesday, Oct. 16, which just happens to coincide with Webster’s birthday. We’ll be celebrating at 6:30 p.m. with cake!

“It Started with Aardvark” is a series of 26 screen prints, one for each letter of the alphabet. It includes every illustration from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, with these images organized by letter. These screen prints do not portray the 3,100 dictionary illustrations as separate images as they are in the dictionary volume, but instead, overlap them in successive layers printed one on top of another so that they co-exist as one merged graphic icon, a hybrid of all visual knowledge. Because they were printed by hand, and because the images were layered one after another, the surface of the print retains the individual outlines of each illustration like a sedimentary deposit. On average, each print has more than 100 layers, with letter “S” having the most with 392 illustrations and letter “X” having just two.

Original Dictionary Source Page. Submitted image

“It Started with Aardvark” is a project about the search for meaning. This series of prints shows what the accumulation of knowledge and the ideal of complete understanding can look like within this search for meaning, and how a viewer deciphers and makes sense of visual information in our image-saturated contemporary world.

Originally from Baltimore, Elizabeth Dove lives in Missoula, MT, where she is a professor teaching printmaking, photography and design at the University of Montana. Dove shows internationally, has conducted research into less – toxic printmaking processes, and taught dozens of workshops on these processes at colleges and universities. Her artwork explores the ambiguous relationship between words and images as sources of meaning, and often integrates autobiographical elements. Dove’s themes include the insufficiency of language to communicate personal experiences, retain memory, or express grief, joy or mystery.

Elizabeth Dove says she is, “thrilled to have ‘It Started with Aardvaark’ shown at the birthplace of Noah Webster, as it is an ideal location not only because of its history but how it provides a different audience the chance to view the prints.” She has worked on the project for almost a decade, and consistently has spoken of her, “affection for dictionaries and their critical role in creating stable knowledge systems.” Though “It Started with Aardvark” might challenge that system, “as it layers and overlaps illustrations cut from dictionary pages,” it reinforces that the dictionary is, and always will be, a symbol of certain knowledge.

Dove is profiled in Contemporary American Printmakers, Printmaking: A Complete Guide to Materials and Processes, and Non-Toxic Printmaking, and she wrote chapters for both Non-Toxic Printmaking, and The Contemporary Printmaker. Elizabeth received her BFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, and MFA from Vermont College.

For more about Elizabeth Dove’s work, visit her website: https://www.elizabethdove.com/ 

This is event is free and open to the public. No registration is required.

The museum would like to thank the Greater Hartford Arts Council and Hartford Foundation for Public Giving for their ongoing support.

The Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society is a cultural destination where citizens can learn to understand and appreciate the past. The museum preserves the birthplace of Noah Webster, the founding father, educator, author, and lexicographer who taught generations of Americans what it means to be American. This National Historic Landmark is also a repository for West Hartford’s history, the community that molded Noah Webster’s future, and is still thriving over 250 years later. The historic house and exhibit spaces are open daily 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. For more information on the museum’s extensive school and public programs, please visit www.noahwebsterhouse.org or call 860-521-5362.

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