Post45 Cluster: Ali Smith NOW!

The Museum of Art and Design currently features an exhibit on “garmenting,” described as artists “making or altering clothing for expressive purposes” to “create garments, sculpture, installation, and performance art that transform dress into a critical tool. Adopted globally as an artistic strategy, garmenting uses the language of fashion to challenge traditional divisions of form and function, cast a critical eye on the construction of gender, advance political activism, and address cultural difference.”

In late-2021, early 2022, I collaborated with Deidre Shauna Lynch on an article for a Post45 cluster on Ali Smith’s Quartet of seasonal novels, edited by Debra Rae Cohen and Cara Lewis. As part of my collaboration with Deidre, I created Leavings (After Boubat). The practice of garmenting allowed me to explore the confluence of the artist’s book, archive, and fiction alongside reflections on the covid-19 pandemic and collaborative, feminist scholarship. You can read more about our reading of Smith and the various “Leavings” that informed the project over at Post45 (including the Boubat photograph that inspired me/Smith in various ways). This page serves as a companion piece (if you will!) to our article with some additional photographs of the leaf coat and the full list of documents, artifacts, and handmade archival traces I created or collected for Leavings (After Boubat):

Leavings (After Boubat) by Amy E. Elkins

The Leaf Coat Un-Archive

* Edouard Boubat Jardin de Luxembourg (Girl in a Leaf Dress), 1946 (postcard, created by Amy—on back: “with love from an old child,” Autumn, 10)

* Burned letters (a vision of the two burned letters written by Daniel and Hannah in Summer)—included: “The heat that will come off this note when I burn it will alter the balance of heat and cold in the world in its own way” (Summer, 236)

* Booster vaccine receipt from Walgreens

* Scraps from art-quilt making, summer 2020 

* Page from Sarah Wood, Unmade Film Script (

* Black Mountain postcard from Post-45 cluster co-editor Debra Rae Cohen 

* Chicago postcard from Post-45 cluster co-editor Cara Lewis 

* Leaf postcard from Deidre Lynch 

* Rigaud card from Deidre with leaf found in her sock right before our first video chat

* Amtrak ticket from Deidre’s last public talk before the pandemic (found recently in her copy of Smith’s Spring)

* “I’ve been meaning to write” postcard distributed by Canada Post during third wave (sent by Deidre) 

* Signed title page of Winter, Ali Smith to Amy (Nov. 6, 2017 Senate House, London—inaugural  lecture for Liberty) 

* Letter from Frida Kahlo to Georgia O’Keeffe (March 1, 1933) 

* Gatherings of epigraphs from Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer by Ali Smith 

* Annotated Page—analysis of Boubat postcard in my copy of Autumn

* Scandinavian snowflake made in Denmark (purchased at the Walker Art Center, Dec. 2021 when I  went to see the David Hockney exhibit) honoring Kepler (Winter, 96)

* Photograph of banners from the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp (from Decorating  Dissidence journal resistance-at-the-greenham-common-womens-peace-camp/

* Scots Pine (representing Daniel Gluck, Autumn 89)

* Iris (representing Aunt Iris)

* Illustration from Linguaphone record cover with hand-drawn black frame by Amy (Winter, 204)

* Three collages by Amy for MLA 2021 presentation on Ali Smith incorporating images from Brexit  graffiti, “Make Do and Mend” (1943 war film), 2016 British Vogue, and William Morris birds 

* Shakespearean First Folio known as “Rosebud” because someone pressed a rose in the book and the oils left a perfect impression of the rosebud—housed at Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library (Winter, 212)

* Tacita Dean, Found Postcard Monoprints (California Pair), 2018

* Tacita Dean, Found Postcard Monoprints (Rosa and Walt), 2018

* Pauline Boty, Untitled (Sunflower Woman), c. 1963

* Barbara Hepworth’s “Nesting Stones,” 1937 with caption (Tate Archive)

* Film still from Lorenza Mazzetti’s Together, 1956

* Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator, 1940

* Ethel Walker’s portrait of Barbara Hepworth, 1920

The Daily Telegraph frontpage about the Grenfell Tower fire

* Digital collage by Amy made with quote from Spring (8): “Mess up my climate, and I’ll fuck with your lives”

* Chocolate bar foil wrapper in honor of Beatrix Potter’s chocolate bar teeth marks (Spring, 19)

* Easter 1916 by W.B. Yeats (reference to Spring, 23)

* Letter with landscape sketch by Katherine Mansfield (from The Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Letters of Katherine Mansfield, Volume 1, which includes a “Preface” by Ali Smith)

The Montafon Letter, 2017 by Tacita Dean (on back: “Everything that a mountain can mean. Having a lovely time. Wish you were here.”)

Bless our Europe (triptych), 2018 by Tacita Dean (on back: “Dear Paddy. A message from the clouds. Having a lovely time. Wish you were here.”) 

* Copy of my passport—with rejected head size/expression/lighting passport photo (for Autumn, 24)

* Screenshot from Refugee Tales (Ali Smith is contributor and patron):

* Bag of air (in conversation with Tacita Dean’s project mentioned in Spring, 219)

* Obituary for bell hook from The New York Times

* Obituary for Francis Warner 

* Vintage Italian postcard (on back: “Picture of a changed woman” from Spring, 263)

* Stitched rhododendron leaves on a book by Heidi Moon (sent by Deidre via email) 

* Oldest red post box still in use in Britain 

* Vintage Italian postcard from 1907 with girl playing violin (on back: “Best wishes from your sister, Robert Greenlaw” Summer, 349)

* Title page, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (signed), 1891 (ninth or “deathbed” edition)

* Washington postcard from my friend Ivy—sent with handmade masks and filters at the start of the pandemic  

* Cover page of syllabus for “Zadie Smith and Ali Smith,” Fall 2021 Macalester College

* Spring 2020 Fellowship Program brochure, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library 

* Leaves made from “La Broderie Lyonnaise,” a French embroidery and pattern publication from 1959 (a representation of my forthcoming book’s leaves, which studies 120 years of women’s writing and craft, including my own). 

* Page from “Obliterature: Towards an Amateur Criticism” by Melanie Micir and Ararthi Vadde

* Page from “Ephemera as Evidence” by José Esteban Munoz 

Page from “Time for Reading” (PMLA) by Deidre Shauna Lynch and Evelyne Ender

* Leaves made from masks (“She thinks of those little cotton facemasks of now. They’re like nothing at all, dead leaves, blowaway litter, compared to the real masks, the ones on the faces of the planet’s liars” Summer, 41-42)

Scattered on the floor (in some of the images): a cache of vintage postcards sent via Royal Mail by my friend Jacquie in Oxford. They are from her family archive, sent to me in October 2021.

Process: I upcycled a vintage cashmere coat and built a wire frame across the back of the garment so it would have a structural quality. In stitching the covered wire (which looks like twigs) to the coat, I thought a lot about the multi-dimensions of Smith’s work and tried to create a framework for layering the archive (a technique Smith does so brilliantly in words). I collected documents and worked with Deidre to bring our collaboration and her experiences of the pandemic into conversation with my own set of artifacts and ideas. I left most of the documents whole, but cut some things into leaf shapes (like the used masks and the Whitman title page) or crumpled them to add depth and texture. I also conceived of the project as a multi-layered artist’s book, so I collected or made postcards and inscribed them according to specific correspondences in Smith’s novels. I also re-created many of the artworks mentioned in Smith’s Quartet, such as Tacita Dean’s bag of air, and I made art from the detritus of the texts—burning letters on New Year’s Day 2021, for example, to create ashes with a quote from Summer when Daniel and Hannah burn letters they’ve written to each other during WWII. Interwoven with the documents are artificial aspen leaves, which fascinated me for their resonances with folklore and mythology—they capture the resilience of the pandemic-life I mustered at various points, a kind of fearful (trembling, shimmering) persistence. I incorporated the running stitch (used by Smith’s protagonist Daniel in his own coat-crafting project) on the leaves, which makes visible the mending quality of the project alongside the themes of un-binding, un-making, and scattering. While assembling the archive and making the coat were fundamental components of my art-making practice, the ultimate goal was to re-visualize Boubat’s photograph as art in the present. In photographing the coat, I aimed to experiment with a combination of my own present and the affective registers of Smith’s Quartet in the present—ranging from playful irreverence to the trauma and tragedy of political division.