Notes on Clarissa is an ongoing project inspired by the 18th-century epistolary novel Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. The novel's four-volume story is told primarily through the correspondence (500+ letters) between its four principal characters, and details the drama of a young woman's seduction, violation, and ultimate tragedy.
Each volume of Notes on Clarissa uses source images of one of Penn’s site-responsive installations, and each collage alludes to one of the letters in the novel. This considered manipulation of images highlights the interplay between the lightweight synthetic materials used in her in-situ work and the photographic representation of that work. It is a phenomenological approach that emphasizes atmosphere, form, and visual experience. The reformulation and reconstruction of her work is an essential part of her practice.
The 99 collages in Notes on Clarissa (Volume I) are derived from 4 x 6-inch exhibition cards of the artist's 2019 installation Ebb Tide at ODETTA/Chelsea. Volume I was shown in her 2020 solo exhibition "Uneasy Terms" at Undercurrent in Brooklyn, NY. The 129 collages of Volume II are derived from 5 x 7-inch cards of Penn's 2017 installation Situations, Zone 6 (Rockland) in the Center for Maine Contemporary Art's exhibition "Materiality: The Matter of Matter."
The artist’s interest in film and fiction informs the work. The tragic story of Clarissa reflects her own anxieties about a vulnerable and fraying world. This unease permeates her materials-based pieces, fueling a continuing engagement with an oblique kind of narrative, grounded in abstraction.
Below is a selection of collages from Volumes I and II. Several pieces from this series were on view in the 2023 exhibition "Mirror Milk" at Satchel Projects, 526 W. 26th St., NYC.