Booklyn Artists Alliance

Maureen Cummins, High Falls, NY

Maureen Cummins' artwork combines extensive historical research, evocative layerings of vintage and contemporary documents and texts with impeccable aesthetic execution.


THE FLAG PROJECT, editioned book

THE FLAG PROJECT, print portfolio









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edition of 40, $1,500. This limited-edition print project, Divide & Conquer, was designed by Maureen Cummins with typographic assistance by Kathleen McMillan. Production was funded by the Experimental Printmaking Institute at Lafayette College, with additional support from the Friends of Skillman Library. All editioning was completed on site at EPI by Jase Clark.

To produce the printed pieces, multiple layers of text and imagery were hand silkscreened onto sheets of Arches Cover, then hand-colored. The images used for the prints are period photographs and engravings collected by the artist. Many of the portraits are reproduced here by kind permission of the New York Historical Society & the Schomburg Center For Research in Black Culture.

The portfolios that house the prints were produced by Portfolio Box of Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

"The text of this project is excerpted from a manuscript that the artist discovered while in residency at the American Antiquarian Society in the fall of 2000. The handwritten pages, which numbered over three hundred in length, comprised the transcript for a series of congressional hearings held in 1871. The purpose of the hearings was to gain information about the activities of the group known at that time as the Ku Klux, a widespread organization that was responsible for a virtual reign of terror throughout the south in the decades following the civil war. The transcripts bear witness not only to the horrific acts of the KK, but also to the way in which they divided a community along racial lines by targeting anyone who resisted their vision of racial separation and white supremacy.

"The physical form of this project is based on the Exquisite Corpse—a literary game invented in the early twentieth century by the surrealists. In the game, each player took a turn writing on a piece of paper, then folded it so that only the last word would show, and passed it on to the next player for his or her contribution. The game was later adapted to drawing and collage."

" Divide and Conquer, makes use of the early history of the Klan—referred to at the time as the Ku Klux—as a way to explore ideas about race, class, identity and human relationships. "The physical form of the prints - inspired by the Exquisite Corpse, a game invented by the Surrealists—gives the reader/viewer the power to align and combine the printed elements in a variety of different and thought-provoking ways. I also draw upon the visual language of toys and games (the figures in my prints are meant to resemble paper dolls) to illustrate the way in which individuals were objectified and communities torn apart, divided or destroyed by the Ku Klux. "Simultaneously I celebrate the lives of those individuals who, by simple acts of humanity, defied the KK's vision of racial separation and white supremacy, then later had the courage to collectively tell their stories, redefining what community could be. I have used imagery reminiscent of halos and crowns to surround these figures, who for me are like modern-day saints or martyrs."



editioned book of 50, $1,800.00



print portfolio is currently available as two sets of 20 original print-drawings that combine silkscreen with handwriting. Each piece measures 22 x 34 inches—the entire suite of these originals is available for $5,000.

The Flag Project came out of a criticaltime in my own life, and a time of crisis in the life of my country. It was borne of personal change, and has led to a new approach to my work, one in which I address issues directly rather than through the lens of history. Although in The Flag Project I touch upon themes that run throughout my work—the history of violence in America, the experience of marginalized groups, the conflict between individual and society, appearance versus reality—I have departed from my usual objective perspective and have developed this piece from an entirely personal perspective. I developed The Flag Project as a vehicle for exploration, a way to investigate the confused and often conflicted feelings I was having about myself and my own changing identity as a new mother, as well as my sense of myself as an American during a time of rising nationalism. I wanted to challenge representations being put forth by the media and the current administration of what it is to be an American, what American values, experiences and attitudes are. Not only did these words and images not reflect my own experience or reality, but I also questioned whether they truly represented anyone, if it was even possible in a country as diverse as the United States to have a national identity. It seemed to me that a personal memoir was the simplest and most powerful weapon that I, as an artist, could use in the face of rampant myths and stereotypes. Through memoir I hope to make the personal political. An edition of 25 Flag Project print portfolios will be available in the spring of 2005 and which will be priced at approximately $3,500.00.

CURRENT EVENTS II / Titanic, 2004, edition of 20
On April 10, 1912 the greatest ship ever built, the Titanic, was launched on her maiden voyage. No cost had been spared in her construction or in the outfitting of her opulent compartments. For the millionaires, captains-of-industry and honeymoon couples who sailed with her, the Titanic promised the ultimate in luxury, status and social privilege. She was the very embodiment of the most cherished beliefs of her age – a limitless faith in science, technological progress, and man’s ability to prevail over brute nature. In publicity material from the time, the Titanic was described as the greatest achievement of the Anglo-Saxon race. Her owners, The White Star Line, declared her to be "unsinkable." Five days later, on April 15, 1912 at 11:45 p.m., the Titanic grazed an iceberg in the North Atlantic and was fatally pierced through her starboard side. When she sank, two and a half hours later, 1,513 lives were lost with her. Her fate, and the succession of human errors that sealed it, shocked the world. The Titanic had not been equipped with a searchlight. The number of lifeboats on board was grossly inadequate. Her crew had never been drilled in how to lower and launch the boats. Her distress signals were seen by a nearby ship, but dismissed as being too improbable. The Titanic, a ship that had been built as a monument to man’s power and supremacy, came to be synonymous with human folly and mortality.

CURRENT EVENTS II / Titanic retells the story of the Titanic’s last hours from the perspective of the ship’s survivors. Drawing upon original memoirs published shortly after the disaster, the artist weaves together a chorus of voices to create a narrative reminiscent of Greek tragedy. Like the mythic ship herself, each statement of disbelief and denial looms larger than life, reverberating through time and resonating with the reader’s own personal experience and political world. The book seeks to capture the greater significance of the Titanic disaster – an event that haunts our consciousness not because it is a nightmare catastrophe from another time, but because it is our own waking reality.

CURRENT EVENTS II / Titanic is the second in a series of altered newspapers produced by Cummins. The piece pairs eyewitness accounts with graphic images of a sinking ship in silhouette. Advertisements, headlines, and stock listings can be read through deeply saturated fields of midnight blue sky and seascape. Layers of time and meaning intersect spontaneously to create a palimpsest of poetic and political associations.

The project was produced at Women’s Studio Workshop in the fall of 2004. Twenty copies of the Wall Street Journal were overprinted with six silkscreen runs. Each copy is 48 pages, contains 25 eyewitness accounts.


THE BUSINESS IS SUFFERING, 2003, edition of 50, 56 pages, 13"x9".
Produced in the spring and summer of 2003. The project was inspired by a collection of letters found by the artist while working in the archive of the American Antiquarian Society. The letters, which date from 1846 to 1861, were written by prospective buyers, sellers and "agents" in the field to the slave-dealing firm of R.H. Dickinson & Bros., of Richmond, Virginia. Collectively, they document the decline of the slave trade as a viable business in the South, while simultaneously revealing the unselfconscious racism and dehumanizing attitudes which led to such a widespread and brutal system.

The book was printed on Rives heavyweight with text and imagery printed letterpress and silkscreeen. Twenty-six letters have been selected and transcribed in full for this edition. The complementary images, based on a slave ship diagram of tightly packed human bodies, become noticeably sparse as the narrative progresses and business begins to suffer. The book is three-quarter bound in black paper and leather, and housed in a black slipcase. Gold stamping adorns the slipcase spine and the word "private" is inset into the cover of the book. The binding style is loosely based on nineteenth century business ledgers, while also drawing upon characteristic elements of the actual "daybooks" kept by R.H. Dickinson & Bros. The Business is Suffering was supported by grants and funded residencies from the American Antiquarian Society, the Puffin Foundation, and Women's Studio workshop. It was printed on site at WSW. Below is the text from a page of The Business is Suffering

Baltimore June 20th 1847
RH Dickinson Esqr

Dr Sir,
I write merely to say tell the purchaser of that stout man George that he will be consulting his own interest to keep him under such guard as will insure him against the chance of an escape, otherwise he will run away sure as hell, he has been an idle vagabond unaccustomed to any sort of restraint
& always has his own way quite a pretty article to be taken care of in my opinion. We are buying up a lot of negroes & after this week if there comes a spur in your market I will see you again. Nothing new since I saw you: I have a No 1 cook in every respect 24 years old can be warrented 1st rate -- will she sell well -- She has an infant child almost white

Write to me often
Your friend
WL Campbell

Selected Collections:
Boston Atheneum, MA
Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Lafayette College, Easton, PA
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Schomburg Center for Research in African American History and Culture, New York Public Library, NYC, NY
Swarthmore College, PA
Stanford University, Green Library, Palo Alto, CA
Trinity University, Hartford, CT
University of California at Santa Barbara
University of Louisville, Kentucky
University of Vermont, Burlington
Wellesley College, MA
Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

GHOST DIARY, 2002, edition of 25, Almost out of print.
Based on a previously unpublished letters written by Robert Rhea (who was married into the Rutgers family of then called New Ark) a former Revolutionary War officer under Washington to his children, this memoir is a strange and haunting juxtaposition of love and death – bloody wartime events, the burning of Indian villages, battles with the British, and putting down of rebel insurgencies alternate with Robert Rhea’s recounting of his courtship of his wife, their wartime engagement and marriage. Ghost Diary impresses upon the reader both the immediacy of the past, and the close and often random relationship between life and death. Vintage glass negatives, glass and transparencies.

Selected Collections
Lafayette College, Easton, PA
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Stanford University, Green Library, Palo Alto, CA
Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
University of Vermont, Burlington
Wellesley Collge, MA
Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT

CURRENT EVENTS, 2001, Edition of 6 altered newspapers. Out of print.
Six copies of the entire front section of the daily New York Times were overprinted with alternate headlines, declarations of critical issues relating to the “current” state of the earth, situations that are not only of greater consequence than the daily news, but are largely ignored by the mainstream press. A chilling, yet gorgeous, and velvet -like tactile read. The pages seem as if they are sheets of water flowing over the submerged images and bearing the urgent text that floats over the viscous surface.

Anonymous, private collection
Dartmouth College
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University
Lafayette College
Library of Congress
University of Vermont

FEMMES FATALES, 2001, edition of 50.
This book draws the reader in with a series of seductive photographs of “femmes fatales,” women of mystery, drama and dangerous beauty. As one progresses through the pages it becomes apparent that the titles accompanying the images (i.e., The Virgin, The Scottish Maiden, The Widow, Red Hannah, Yellow Mama, The Bride of Nuremberg) only seem to describe the women depicted, but are in fact a catalog of nicknames for torture and execution devices employed from Roman times to the present. Letterpress, xerography and die-cuts

STOCKS AND BONDS, 2000, edition of 30. Out of print.
Inspired by the fact that “Stocks and Bonds” are both a medieval punishment and a general term of restraint, this book traces the historical relationship between profits and pain, the “business” of torture. Graphic images of torture devices are surprinted over original stock tickets from the New York Stock Exchange, circa 1910. Photoengraving, letterpress and collage.

CRAZY QUILT, 1998, edition of 100
This book assembles the experiences of women institutionalized for insanity in the past century, often unjustly. Memoirs of well-known writers, actresses and artists, as well as those of unknown women are included. The pages of the book open up and unfold like a quilt. This motif is a reference to the fact that women in Victorian asylums were forced to sew, while the “crazy quilt” style, with it’s use of useless and unwanted scraps of fabric, is a commentary on the position of marginalized populations in our society. Silkscreen-printed. Printed at the Women's Studio Workshop.

CHECKBOOK, 1997, edition of 50, 9" 3", 50 pages
Printed using found checks issued by the Manhattan Company, a stock brokerage firm which was in business in the early twentieth century. The book is bound in leather to resemble a personal checkbook. The title is stamped in gold on the outside. The text of the book is a series of definitions for the word "check" taken from the OED. Although the words derive from fields as diverse as chess to falconry, the meaning in every case involves being stopped, prevented, held back. The final definition, written by the artist, runs for three pages and describes the way in which the banking system and capitalism in general assure that the poor stay poor and the rich get richer. The checks which form the pages of this book are variously stamped, punched, signed and otherwise marked and are extremely beautiful and graphic.

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