During my first trip to Chicago for this project, I made a special trip to Gary, Indiana to visit with Kay Rosen, an artist known for her perceptual play and discoveries of unusual linguistic situations. For example, in her wall installation, Yours/Ours that I had viewed the day before at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the word ‘YOURS’ is painted across two adjacent exhibition walls in floor-to-ceiling letters with a hall corridor creating an opening between the ‘Y’ and the ‘O’. This gap, or visual pause, reveals the embedded four-lettered word—’OURS‘—all of which stands to the right of the dividing line. Rosen, through carefully plotted typography, often evokes two words out of one in such a way that our cognitive associations interplay.
Rosen greeted me at her home and invited me down to her basement studio. She pulled out the residue from one of her works—a set of partially-filled cans of house paint. At an exhibition in 2002, she created a wall painting titled On Top of Old Smokie inspired by the names of latex paint mistakes that were on sale at Home Depot. A plaque of the paint names corresponding to the colors in the painting has a permanent home on her desk that reads: “Olive Grove, Red Maple, Nomad’s Trail, Buffalo Grass on top of Great Smokie Mt.”
Our conversation later moved on to her avid mystery novel reading, especially books by British women. In the works of one of her favorite authors, PD James, Rosen has come to notice that somewhere in each book, the author describes wall(s) of books. Rosen has collected each passage into a single-paragraph, sampled above. At twenty-three passages and counting, it is an artwork in progress—a List from her ongoing List Series, of which she has made about twenty since 1987. Her mind perpetually seeks patterning and peculiarities within text (in this case, entire novels), and this is an example of where Rosen’s personal time and her work intersect. In a sense, Rosen’s position as an artist is that of a detective sleuthing hidden plots in plain sight.