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Dream of the Golden Empress

By Rachel Simmons
Orlando, Florida: Rachel Simmons, 2023. Edition of 10.

Doubled-sided accordion in a hard cover magnetic enclosure with letterpress and screen prints on French and Thai kozo papers, book cloth, and decorative Japanese paper. Closed dimensions are 13.5” tall x 6.75” wide x .78” deep. Open dimensions are 13.5” tall x 16” wide x .5” deep, and for standing display, the dimensions are 13.5” tall x 50” wide x 4” deep. Written, designed and printed by Rachel Simmons. Numbered.

Rachel Simmons: "Through cinematic visual language, ‘Dream of the Golden Empress’ tells the story of an arrogant emperor bent on environmental destruction. The characters in this allegory— the Emperor, the Golden Empress and the People— are archetypes referencing actors from the current political landscape in the United States. Like shadow puppets, each character embodies easily recognizable traits like greed, selfishness, compassion, anger and love. The lush color palette of violet, black, gold, emerald green and bright orange alludes to elitist behaviors of excess and unchecked power. Across the book, a linear narrative in fuchsia floats over repeated storm clouds, disrupted by a sequence of five-line protest poems, each multi-layered through pressure printing on wood type. The textural quality of these prints evokes a sense of vibration or disruption, hampering one’s ability to read the message as it glitches.

“These two distinct but interwoven threads, the narrative and the poetry, capture two ideas: the historical retelling of a political disaster, and the interruptions caused by cacophonous voices of dissent, warning and protest. The moral of the allegory is revealed in the colophon where readers are asked to take responsibility for their political choices, because despite what fairytales tell us, there are no heroic figures who can save us from ourselves. On the reverse side of the accordion, the Golden Empress is illustrated through Lego relief prints in a style inspired by Balinese shadow puppets. She moves through a series of poses—perhaps dancing or fighting—as befitting her dream to inspire the People to move, respond and take action."

Dream of the Golden Empress

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