Paula Damm and Terri Witek
Deeper Than Indigo: Southeast Textiles Symposium Flagler College, Tovar House, St. Augustine, 2018
As weaver and poet, we are intrigued by what we call text/textile Reliquaries—works which encase and protect pieces of language in the way that sacred reliquaries hold saints’ bones and splinters of cross. For a site-specific exhibition, Deeper Than Indigo, informed by local slave trade history, we were particularly moved and challenged to think about Mangaaka from Kongo. In these amazing sculptures, the sacred things once held remain unknown to the colonizers into whose hands these power figures fell.
Think of these in suspension: Reliquary Indigo: This Grew Out of My Wound and Reliquary Indigo: It Is Not a Sound that has Passed Away . Loom-woven, the works hold quotes from St Augustine, himself an African saint. In Paula’s house in Cleveland we first painted the texts on hand-dyed indigo warp or weft thread—on the loom, the phrases then both hid themselves and fragmented into unreadable glint. We think this hiddenness preserves them as cultural memory. At the same time the phrases are broken/held in meshed indigo—one of the materialities of the slave trade which flourished in the city of St. Augustine.
And of course elsewhere: these documentary photos remove the Reliquaries Indigos from the native coquina exhibition walls: now they could be anywhere. Photographs too are site-specific spaces, we recall. As are anthologies. What are we trying to forget/remember?
Reliquary Indigo: This Grew Out of My Wound and Reliquary Indigo: It Is Not a Sound that has Passed Away suggest that racism is a particularly ongoing cultural wound that requires both memory and deep glints of revelation. The city of St. Augustine eventually wove its slave history into the Civil Rights movement which in 1968 found its painful nexus there. We hope that leaving the edges of our Reliquaries Indigo unbound and suspended here as photos on a page suggests that other histories/species/futures can soon catch.
Terri Witek is the author of 6 books of poems, most recently The Rape Kit, winner of the 2017 Slope Editions Prize judged by Dawn Lundy Martin. Her poetry often traces breakages between words and images, and she has collaborated with visual and multi-disciplinary artists throughout her career. Works with Brazilian visual artist Cyriaco Lopes (cyriacolopes.com) include museum and gallery shows, performance and site-specific projects featured internationally in New York, Seoul, Miami, Lisbon, Valencia, and Rio de Janeiro and nationally in the Faulconer Gallery and Crisp-Ellert Museum, among others. Collaborations with digital artist Matt Roberts (mattroberts.com) use augmented reality technology for smart phones to poetically map cities and have been featured in Manizales (Colombia), Glasgow, Vancouver, Lisbon, Miami, Santa Fe, St. Augustine and Orlando. Witek directs Stetson University’s undergraduate creative writing program and teaches multi-disciplinary text/image making (Poetry in the Expanded Field) in Stetson University’s low-residency MFA of the Americas. terriwitek.com @terri witek
Paula Damm is a life long self- taught manipulator of thread who has been experimenting on and off looms for the past 15 years. A 2019 collaboration with poet Terri Witek, Reliquaries: Indigo, was featured in Deeper Than Indigo:Southeast Textile Symposium, St. Augustine, Florida (2018); Phoneography: Beyond the Selfie, was exhibited at Viewpoint Photographic Art Center, Sacramento California (2020); Non-medical grade face masks appeared in South Florida Poetry Journal, May 2020. Paula is a registered nurse by training with a specialty in school nursing. @pauladamm3470