Vorschriften is a project that relies on invented language to translate personal history. These paintings use autobiographical alphabets to pictorially spell out words, with an emphasis on transcribing language that relates to the experience of living in a female body— particularly things that are uncomfortable, surreal, confusing, traumatic, or abstract. In a culture where both female pain and pleasure are often misunderstood, undervalued, or ignored, I’m interested in creative a positive space for these topics. I’m also curious about how playfulness and nonsense can be utilized to interpret difficult memories, feelings, and experiences.

This series is inspired by the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of Vorschriften, which were writing exercises made in the late 1700s to mid 1800s using a distinctive German calligraphic script called fraktur. The pieces of Vorschriften I’ve made here spell out words based on original alphabets, with each letter of the English alphabet corresponding to a personally relevant symbol. As a consequence of the spelling process, disparate symbols are closely arranged within the same composition. This speaks to my own experience that conflicting elements— joy and humiliation, self-consciousness and self-confidence, humor and heartbreak— often live simultaneously in the same body. My aim with this project, and with my creative practice as a whole, is to give space to this reality.

Right now this work is primarily based on my own autobiographical alphabet, which you can see the most current version of here, but I’m looking to involve the voices of others. If you’d like to participate in a future transcription, I’d love to hear from you… please send me an email at anne (at) annebuckwalter.com.