VOYNICH DRESS (2016)

The Voynich Dress was part of the exhibit “Reactions: Medieval/Modern” at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, University of Pennsylvania, from August 15-December 16, 2016. The exhibit focused on the varied relationships between manuscripts and their readers, redactors, and reworkers throughout time; including the relationship between artists and writers, and the inspiration they take from medieval manuscripts in the modern era. The dress is now part of the permanent collections of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University.

I created this dress to pay homage to one of my favorite medieval mysteries: the infamous Voynich Manuscript (see also here.) The manuscript is both wildly enigmatic, because of its sinuous, undeciphered text; and at the same time strangely approachable, thanks to its bizarre and evocative illustrations. The dress also serves as an exploration of the idea that when we dress in costume as someone or something else, it's because we want to capture or channel those qualities which we perceive in the original. Beyond this, when someone dresses as a cipher, do they themselves become a cipher? Or does that cipher become slightly de-ciphered, because of the unavoidable human beneath the costume?

Each image was drawn freehand with fabric markers on muslin, utilizing the fully-digitized images on the Beinecke Library’s Digital Library website as my models. Each image is cited with its relevant folio designation, and the accompanying text is an accurate reproduction of the text next to the originals.