Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Excavating Hamlet: The Play as a Palimpsest

Here at Rauner, we love Hamlet. We’ve previously written about an edition of the play performed in French and a 1949 woodcut version that resembles a graphic novel style, but we figured there’s no such thing as too much Shakespeare.

Mary Heebner’s The Tragic History of Hamlet: An Artist’s Interpretation of the Classic Text by William Shakespeare is a 2008 edition that produced only 20 copies. The “book” (I use the term loosely) is encased in a clamshell case and features loose-leaf excerpts from the text, which fold over paintings that follow the subject matter. Heebner says in her Artist’s Note that her works are “palimpsests of sorts” created by painting over printed text and then scraping into the paint. Drawn to the play’s subtext about female relationships that manifests itself through the figures of Gertrude and Ophelia, she meditates deeply upon the nature of feminine emotional conflict through her repeated depictions of the female body.

Interacting with a play as a series of paintings is definitely a unique experience. Each piece has to be carefully lifted out of its case and handled individually, forcing readers to reflect upon each one as a unique art object. Instead of being presented with the play as a whole, it’s an ant’s eye view of Heebner’s perspective of Hamlet - and what a view it is!

To explore Heebner’s interpretation of Hamlet, ask for Presses S579heh.

Posted for Emily Rutherford '16

1 comment :

  1. Dear Emily, Thank you for your careful and insightful comments about my artist's book, The Tragic History of Hamlet. I particularly enjoyed your 'ant's eye view" comment, expressing how a closer, slower attentiveness brings its own reward. All best wishes, Mary Heebner