9.75 × 7.75 × 3.75 in
University of Delaware Library
Napoleon’s Wallpaper is a unique book from Hicks’ Common Threads series: a variant series of hand-embroidered canvas books, copying the form and design of dime-store “composition” books. The books themselves, self-consciously hand-made objects, are a record of coincidental occurrences generally gleaned from reading or mundane events. The use of embroidery thread allows Hicks to produce both the text and image with the same mark and material, rendering the text, image, and substance of these books inseparable.
Napoleon’s Wallpaper departs from the series in both observations and its physical form. The hand-sewn accordion book, which spans 10 feet when fully extended, highlights small differences between recurring phrases and ideas in what the artist is reading. A special emphasis on whether the arsenic in Napoleon’s green wallpaper contributed to his death carries through to a detailed recurring fleur de lis pattern embroidered on the interior and covers of the book. On the backside of the hand-sewn narrative, Hicks’ distinctive pale blue quasi-mathematical embroidery lines arc, loop, and expand, racing to connect the book’s end back to its beginning.
Storytelling is key to Hicks’ artistic practice. There is an implied narrative in everything, even, as Hicks addresses with her work, in the seemingly pointless mental-wheel-spinning that is a part of daily life. Her work acknowledges the unavoidability of simulation and the impossibility of originality. Her choice of the book as a principle medium stems from the idea of books as authoritative; they provide an arena in which fiction can be accepted as fact and observations can take on a mythic narrative quality. Her interest in books also derives from their inherent unity of text and image, which lends books continued relevance as a transmedia hybrid.