Welcome to MissouriBendStudio!

This is an online journal of my artistic investigations and a way to communicate about my work, ideas, quandries and queries! I welcome comments and conversation and do hope you enjoy these musings. My artwork is available in my shop MissouriBendStudio on Etsy.com or on my website.


Monday, September 27, 2010

A Walk Through The Universe: Palimpsest

I have to say that, once again, it's been such a pleasure discovering new wonders as I forge ahead on this journey through the universe.  I'm happy to share with you my latest discoveries and hope you are as inspired and delighted as I am!  I made some preliminary queries online for "palimpsest" to see just what might pop up and then went over to etsy with the same search to see if any artists were utlizing palimpsest in their work.  There were two really amazing finds in those early searches, both of which I'll share here.  The first is an artist, Aria Nadii, whose Etsy shop WildMuse immediately became a favorite.  Her beautiful work so much embodied the notion of palimpsest that I contacted her right away. I was going to begin this post with an explanation of palimpsest, but Aria has done that so nicely, I'll just relay her contribution in its entirety!  Aria's writing has also nicely provided the introduction for the second gem I'd like to share on the subject of palimpsest, for me a fascinating subject.  I'm sure you'll fall in love with Aria's work, as I have!

Third Orbiting

From The Garden By Sea

Pisces Logic

The Road To Amyoun


The Devil's Darning Needle

Undersea Dreaming, Pompeii

Palimpsest (from the Greek palimpsestos (‘scraped again’) is often found in the earliest illuminated manuscripts. A palimpsest is reused writing support of papryus or parchment from which the underlying text has been erased by washing or using pumice or other scraping devices. Erasure was not always complete and an underlying text would bleed through. There came a point when I realized that I was creating pieces that were reminiscent of palimpsests, and it  after this realization that I took a closer look at the concept and began exploring it more directly.


In my work, the written word is ever-present, but is not intended to signify anything specific. The words are there to be perceived, evoking rather than meaning. There are many layers in the construction of each piece, and texts are buried, scratched or sanded away. Sometimes they just peek through in ghostly fragments. These textual apparitions are reminiscent of the words of philosophers and poets, thought to be heretical in their time, whose carefully recorded thoughts were literally "rubbed out" and over written with religious scripture. Before the invention of paper, writing supports were expensive and the ancients were resourceful, recycling anything they could and letting very little go to waste. There is also something symbolic in this practice, that goes beyond thrift, even if it was accidental.

The canvas base of my small works are fragments of old oil paintings, which are hidden by the layers subsequently affixed. In the stitched and embroidered works, the surfaces were once parts of clothing or other textiles, onto which I layer papers made transparent by age or deliberate rubbing. I then sketch, glaze or stitch over them, partially or completely obscuring what they once were. There is meant to be a kind of poetry in the re-use and layering, resonant with that sense that comes from seeing a palimpsest, knowing that there's something hidden, half-erased beneath.

-- Aria Nadii

As she mentions in her own writing, ancient texts that included  the writings of philosophers and poets were often written over with religious scripture. I knew this to be true in an abstract sort of way, but was amazed to find a link in my search to the Archimedes Palimpsest, which can be found HERE.  An actual palimpsest!  This manuscript, undergoing extensive research and conservation at The Walters Art Museum, is a 13th century prayer book written over erased texts from the 10th century that include seven treatises of the Greek mathematician, Archimedes. Two of these are texts that exist nowhere else.  Purchased by a anonymous collector in 1998 at a Christie's auction, the palimpsest was deposited immediately at The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore for study and conservation and at this date, twelve years later, efforts are ongoing. The website for the project is a goldmine of information, images and video about the history of the manuscript, Archimedes, and the conservation efforts.  It's quite fascinating! Here's a tidbit to share...we have Archimedes to thank for many things we take for granted including the pulley, the fulcrum, and the lever...and he is apparently the first to have understood the concept of buoyancy!

Hope you can visit Aria Nadii's shop and the Archimedes Palimpsest site...both will provide a fascinating look at the layers of history both concealed and revealed in a palimpsest. 

Which reminds me...where does this path lead for next week? So many possibilities, but since it's a common connection in Aria's post and the Archimedes Palimpsest, how about looking at medieval prayer books, specifically the Book of Hours!  Love to hear your comments and anything you'd like to share about palimpsest or the Book of Hours!  

Thanks for stopping at Missouri Bend Studio!



  1. Lovely post! I followed the Archimedes link and was wishing I could look at the palimpsest in person. At the moment I am trying to locate (closer to home)some islamic school writing boards from Ethiopia which are cleaned and written on over and over again. Aria's work is wonderful!

  2. Marvelous post, Patti! I will follow both these new paths you've illuminated for us. Life and art are all indeed about successive layering, so it is very moving to see the concept made manifest in a physical object. I've been thinking a lot lately about the uses and abuses of the blogger world, how easy it is to get bogged down by so many sites out there of definite interest, comfort or entertainment value, but in the long run, not very helpful to the creative process, or a good use of the limited time of an artist! And here you come with a posting that is delightful and ALSO intellectually and creatively inspiring! Aria seems a kindred soul and a great discovery, for which I thank you. By the way - I LOVE the Walters. It was my first stop on my first visit to Baltimore. I even picked a hotel nearby. And don't get me started on medieval books...looking forward to the next installment here!

  3. Thanks so much Gabriella...I am happy to know there is something here to chew on and to stimulate the creative process...that is the goal, of course! I've not been to the Walters and only to Baltimore once...whenever we get back to Washington, DC (one of our favorite destinations!) we'll try to get to Baltimore as well. Can't wait to start digging in on next week's post! So glad this feature is doing it's job for you!

  4. Robyn, glad you followed the link for the Archimedes Palimpsest....I was amazed at the wealth of information there and still haven't fully read it all. I'd LOVE to hear more about the Ethiopian writing boards...I'm quite fascinated by the idea of layers of knowledge and the traces we leave behind! Aria's work is quite beautiful, isn't it! Thanks for your comment!

  5. Emma, yes, her work is wonderful! I'm so glad to have found her through etsy. Thanks for your comment!


I'm happy to hear from you...comments and questions are welcome!