“Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.”
~ Walter Benjamin, Unpacking My Library
This is the first major solo exhibition of Aldwyth, a collage and assemblage artist who stands on the edge of the art world. She paces around its perimeter, taking measure of its mass and scale. She dare not dip in her toe for fear that it may consume her, yet her preoccupation with its magnificence cannot be quenched. To understand the machinations therein, she makes lists—and lists of lists. She asks questions. Who is in the history of art? Who is left out—and why? She collects images of artists’ eyeballs, the better to see them with.
Now in her seventies, Aldwyth lives and works in an octagonal house at the edge of a salt marsh on one of South Carolina’s sea islands. For several decades, she has been producing important work in relative seclusion from the larger art world. Her assemblages are responses to the physical landscapes in which she has positioned herself—be it a hurricane-strewn island or a craggy meadow in the Colorado Rockies. The artist utilizes the history of art and ideas as the catalyst for complex, often epic-scaled collages that resemble medieval manuscript pages writ large.
Despite her avoidance of crowds and cities, she devours information and images available to her from a variety of sources—art magazines, libraries, bookstores, the Internet. She is a voracious reader and inveterate collector of detritus. All of the objects and images that enter her purview become fair game, served up as the raw material from which her works are made.
It is certainly ironic that this exhibition is being shown in several major museums, as the artist’s well-guarded cover will now be a thing of the past. Her identity has been so closely aligned to the margins, a full-scale exhibition and catalogue seem almost antithetical to her previously “anonymous” enterprise. The richness of the work compels me to bring this work into public discourse—to introduce the world to an important artist who otherwise might have remained undiscovered.
Director and Senior Curator
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
College of Charleston