Questionable Value

Kate Dodd

Repurposed dictionary, gold paint, brass rod W: 108" H: 60"


Artist Statement:

My propensity for creating artwork with multiple components rather than a single monolithic structure means I can build large works while still providing human scale. My interest in using materials that are considered disposable by society has found its way into many of my past installations. I admired the illustrations in this crumbling 3000 page turn-of-the-century dictionary, so I cut out
every single illustration to save. Small detailed illustrations have always excited me, from my
earliest memories of book reading. Despite being out of date, with much of its information incorrect or obsolete, I couldn’t bear the idea of all these detailed little illustrations in this dictionary being discarded. To me, they represent someone’s time and labor, and therefore have value, even if that value has no place in our current culture.

Cutting out circles came naturally as a way to frame and center each image. Circles with images suggested the idea of coins, and so I painted the space surrounding each image gold to illuminate that connection. On the back of each “coin” I tried to find vague but semi-sinister intent in the happenstance collection of words in proximity to each other, stringing together suggestive phrases that felt like a surreptitious undercurrent in a collection of knowledge that purports to represent truth and neutrality.

The circular forms and suggestion of wealth and armor reminded me of the feather capes that Hawaiian kings once wore, Ahu Ula. Creating a “protective” yet flimsy cloak suggesting past wealth in the midst of the pandemic seemed like an appropriate symbol for the omnipresent anxiety of 2020, a regal garment of questionable value.

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