Cleavemark Drive

photo of an art installation
Cleavemark Dr., installation overview. Image courtesy of David Johnson.

Cleavemark Drive is a collaborative, multimedia installation between poet/artist Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer and visual artist Cheryl Wassenaar.

Working with Schlaifer’s book Cleavemark (BOAAT Press, August, 2016), which laments a familial loss, Wassenaar and Schlaifer collaborated to visually reinterpret the text an in immersive installation at fort gondo in St. Louis, Missouri. Fragments of the words from these poems provided a narrative context and atmosphere that dominated the space. The aesthetic choices picked by Wassenaar evoke the plangent, urgent voice of Schlaifer’s writing.

The exhibition builds on Wassenaar’s decade-long investigation of text and language as a system of meaning that is dependent upon arrangement and context.

The sculptural elements of the installation, created by Schlaifer, combine raw household materials such as sugar, salt, soap and sundry vintage objects. Through these is an exploration of processes accretion and excretion as an analogue the persistent, boundless experience of loss.

While the specific combination of elements draw on specific sensory memories of the poet, the viewer is meant to draw upon the collective sense of loss and grief.

photo of an art installation with a blue wall and yellow wire
Text installation (“When the Eye Saw It Appeared”) + bed frame w/ egg-stained teacups + conduit. Image courtesy of David Johnson.

Everything you want to know about dishes

happens in a nest stackable as
aloe with a little teeth

it is the first wall hinging
all the house in happiness and death

the house is not so wide

the busy wall is the busy wall
and they are kept here

a throat’s extent
in railing

the house is thin
as pivots:

living rounds the stair

the house is not so wide:
there is a door and a door


photo of an art installation of sugar cubes against a brick wall
Cabinet style installation: salvaged hi-fi + cast sugar cakes + “sugar cubes,” cast sugar blocks with object impressions (stamps, iron, juicer). Image courtesy of David Johnson.

photo of a salt-covered arm chair
Text installation (“Everything You Want to Know About Dishes”) + pickling salt-encrusted La-Z-Boy with diorama. Image courtesy of Jessica Baran.

Cleavemark Drive

not the live oak— sand-mount to anthill
you know better the acorns, yes —the particularly
silvery asphalt the pin, you say             your house might smell the same

cutting vegetables for chicken I ask you mid-rib
through breast meat:is it strange to have a craving for liver     :     and what’s a giblet
how do you tell the difference between the liver and the heart: so, okay,
like liverwurst, what is that —you summon so exactly
pounds of him to spread on hearty rounds of rye
and standing here over a bowl full of necks I want to say:
he just handed me a cracker :but how can I
get its legs off without messing up the skin —growing up in this house again
is like eggshells over eggshells— you need a pair of scissors that can cut through bone


photo of an art installation in a closet
Closet installation: soap-embedded wooden spools with golden thread and needles + custom embroidery. Image courtesy of David Johnson.



of the dogs with cordsthey spread a netday and night yourheart goes round it
barkingmoves because of piecingbecause you hearthe dogs alert—
closer—nearer nowthe chasingbefore your potscan feel
—alerteach closer—nearer—nearer dogsnearer
backa foot-pace—evening they come backand feel the doorsthe lord
that brought me here can count my bonesaround itround iton its
wallsAwake &it is not enoughthat suddenly
it weighs the heartthat skillful on your lipsI come to ends and walls
I am an objectI have seen a limitI turn my feetI hurry


photo of wooden spools and thread
Closet installation detail: soap-embedded wooden spools with golden thread and needles. Image courtesy of Stephanie E. Schlaifer.

photo of sugared basins against a brick walll
Sugar-coated installation: sugared basins with cast sugar bags + sugar-coated kitchenware + “sugar prints” (on floor): “THERE IS A CONTAINER ABOUT THE SIZE OF ME.” Image courtesy of David Johnson.

close-up photo of sugar cube installation
Sugar-coated installation detail: “sugar prints” (on floor): “THERE IS A CONTAINER ABOUT THE SIZE OF ME.” Image courtesy of Stephanie E. Schlaifer.



—not sleeping
the edge of the bed
the bed frameworries itself
in dishes

find:a slipknot
slung by stairs
a stairwellspun on
as in: needle

a hood-vent
covers sugar
covers cream

Towels over bowls of rising active yeast

The lord will give
The lord records


she set the kitchen door ajar

I startled her
right out of her bible—
difficult to see God
with only one good eye

read in

the side-by-side
makes ice

Whoever finds its honey

finds a digest:a garden of

on her
quilted heart

Wet heat
for the copying
and in copying
the type

her middle finger’s
middlepinks and whites

Surely God has worn me out

the pencil swells her palm

My hands and feet have shriveled
and I can count my bones

It’s dark in here,
I heard your spoon.


Singers & Dancers alike say:
All my springs are in you

photo of a text installation that reads "upwards" and a salt-encrusted switch plate
Text installation (“Upwards”) + pickling salt-encrusted switch plate installation. Image courtesy of David Johnson.

close-up photo of salt-encrusted switch plate installation
Pickling salt-encrusted switch plate installation, detail. Image courtesy of Stephanie E. Schlaifer.

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