silence, a circle of seven chest-high steel and slate desks, stands in a remote glade surrounded by trees on the grounds of the historic Evergreen House, once home to the Garrett family and now part of the campus of Johns Hopkins University. The sculptural installation explores Mary Elizabeth Garrett’s (1854-1915) under-recognized philanthropic efforts in support of Johns Hopkins Medical School, Bryn Mawr School and Bryn Mawr College, as well as the academic opportunities that her generosity and resolve opened up to women.
Viewers turn the pages of copper books, mounted on each desk, to discover etched text related to Garrett’s contributions. The source documents for these books include Garrett’s will (written in 1908) stipulating that women be eligible for all faculty posts at Hopkins Medical School and personal correspondence in which she asserts the importance of knowledge for both sexes. The books further record the 600 donors–their donations ranged anywhere from twenty-five cents to $47,787.50 to the Women’s Medical School Fund, spearheaded by Garrett in the early 1890s, as well as the significant sums that Garrett gave to educational institutions throughout her life. Also listed are contemporary statistics about the number of practicing women physicians.
Like many of my installations, silence evolved from numerous site visits and extensive research, specifically at the Alan Mason Chesney Archives of Johns Hopkins Medical School, Library of Congress and Bryn Mawr School Archives. An honorarium from the Evergreen Foundation and an anonymous grant given to “an artist working in a truly American vein” made the work possible.
steel, slate, copper, brass, 5’ x 31’ x 31’
2002 Evergreen House, Baltimore, MD
2003 Baltimore Book Festival, Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, MD
2004 Permanent installation at Bryn Mawr School, Baltimore, MD