This is the Everyday Erica Van Horn regularly draws the subject of her work directly from the fabric of her daily life, her domestic and artistic work, the simple household objects at hand, the day-to-day aspects of familiar relationships. In making art based on modest, everyday things—and sometimes using them as the raw materials of her artwork—Van Horn locates the aesthetic qualities of the most immediate world around her, and, by extension, around her audience. Furthermore, in elevating them to the world of fine art, Van Horn insists on the value of simple objects and daily traditions, honoring and commemorating that which might otherwise be forgotten or overlooked. Her attention to the “everyday” is also an act of recording that which is most important to her; Van Horn creates work that serves as an aid to memory and acts as a hedge against the inevitable passing of one day to the next. In this way, Van Horn’s work is a kind of talisman against the eventual end of a ritual, a place, a relationship, a person. In remembering and making beautiful mundane aspects of life, Van Horn celebrates the significant but often unnoticed habits and customs of family and friendship, the exquisite qualities of home, the work of making art.


Rusted, Ballybeg, Grange, Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland: Coracle, [2004]

The first page of Rusted describes the images that follow: "six small iron articles of unknown use found & drawn." Describing the work in greater detail, Van Horn writes: "Over the last ten years, I have found these metal implements: sprockets, chisels, cotter pins, mostly things for which I don't have names. They appear regularly in the soil of this former farm in Tipperary. Each metal piece was a part of something, a solution to a specific problem. That is all I know. I draw them in this simple silhouette form so that I will not forget them." Much of Van Horn's work elevates the unassuming articles and quotidian practices of daily work, be it domestic labor in and around home and property or the work of making art.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 2004R

++See also Visual Narrative & the Plot of Pattern + Leftovers

Mes Vetements Sont Souvent [Une] Un Problème

Mes Vetements Sont Souvent [Une] Un Problème, 1983, [France: s.n. 1983]

Van Horn uses an unusual format, creating an accordion fold-structure by sewing loose cards together, to document a challenge of her daily life in Paris: "my clothes," Van Horn writes, "were ALWAYS a problem (not fashionable, not new, not expensive, and often mismatched)." This book is one of a series of "souvenirs," in which Van Horn models the form on the familiar folders of postcards that are readily available on the streets of Paris, where the artist was then living. The clothing depicted here is also visible in other work Van Horn made during this period, including Eulogy--Favorite Clothes Who Died in France, 1983, and Odyssey, Paris 1982, in which Van Horn's purple-booted feet can be seen in the first frame.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 983M1

++See also Visual Narrative & the Plot of Pattern + Portrait & Likeness

Stiles & the Pennine Way

Stiles & the Pennine Way, Docking, Norfolk, England: Coracle, 1993

An unusual daily travel journal, Stiles & the Pennine Way, records an eleven-day-long walking trip in England; seven day of the trip were spent walking the Pennine Way, a trail ranging across the Pennine Mountains. To keep from getting bored and as a way to distract herself from the steady rain, Van Horn kept track of the stiles she passed through or over along the walk by making hash marks on the sleeve of her raincoat with a waterproof pen. “I was very tidy about my little group of tally marks,” Van Horn writes of her second day on the trail, “and found myself admiring my sleeve a lot through the afternoon, especially since it was raining hard and I had to keep my head down.” Though the book includes Van Horn’s prose narrative about her trip, her drawing of her sleeves interrupts the text in its center; in this way, Van Horn suggests that the marks and the practice of making them are at least as important as the straightforward description of the journey.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 +993S

++ See also Visual Narrative & the Plot of Pattern + Portrait & Likeness

Folded Napkins

Folded Napkins, [Ballybeg, Grange, Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland]: Coracle, 2006

This small book documents a collection of drawings Van Horn made over time with a specific purpose in mind: “When we have guests staying for a few days,” the artist writes, “I ask them to fold their napkins in a particular way so that they will remember which one is theirs. Sometimes they remember and sometimes they forget, so I often make a drawing.” If the book provides a whimsical record of visitors, it also obliquely highlights the importance Van Horn places on breaking bread with friends. Furthermore, in documenting this tradition, the artist considers behavior and tradition reflected in the personalization of social customs.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 2006F

++ See also Portrait & Likeness

Erica Van Horn and Simon Cutts, ["A Bundle of Clothes Pegs"]

Erica Van Horn and Simon Cutts, ["A Bundle of Clothes Pegs"], [Ballybeg, Grange, Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland]: Coracle, 2005

This collaboration with Simon Cutts, a card celebrating the New Year, commemorates a simple household article in word and image; the card’s interior includes the following poem.

a bundle
of clothes

cut & spliced
from a branch
of sycamore

with their
of tinfoil

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 990N

Jewels I Have Loved

Jewels I Have Loved, London: Coracle, 1990

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 990J

Led Astray By Language: a Wandering Interlude, a Peregrination


Phylum Press and Coracle, Led Astray By Language: a Wandering Interlude, a Peregrination, Ballybeg, Grange, Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland: Coracle, [2006].

Documenting a road trip to visit the poets Jonathan Williams and Thomas Meyer, Led Astray by Language includes poems by the writers in Van Horn’s company along with Van Horn’s visual and textual record of their days on the road. In addition to facsimile pages of the travel guidebook in which Van Horn made notes during the trip, the volume includes a map of a hotel’s emergency exits, small silver reproductions of vanity license plates seen along the way, and bookish images from the illustrated papers covering the windows in an out-of-business bookshop.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 2006L

A Few Cups

A Few Cups, [Ballybeg, Grange, Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland]: Coracle, 2007

This group of prints provides an example of the aesthetic value Van Horn finds in the simple forms of objects she encounters in her daily life and her ability to focus careful attention on even the most familiar of objects. Of finding beauty and value in the things of her life, Van Horn has written: “Often my work is about giving attention to the small incidental things in my life—the things that are easily overlooked.” In deep Prussian blue ink, Van Horn’s nine prints depict the shapes and surfaces of simple cups; the work is a study in repetition and variation, and the pleasure of locating subtle differences in similar objects.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 +2007F

Shaker Hanger

Shaker Hanger, Ballybeg, Grange, Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland: Coracle, 2004

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 +979A 1

Reference Files of Envelopes Received

Reference Files of Envelopes Received, December 1983-December 1996

This singular work of artistic and archival practice includes some 3,500 envelopes sewn into 154 books, housed in six large boxes. The envelopes are all addressed to Van Horn (or to her and her husband, Simon Cutts) at locations in the United States, England, France, and Italy, over a period of more than ten years. After keeping all her incoming correspondence for many years, Van Horn decided to discard the envelopes in an effort to pare down her possessions: “I decided the envelopes were dead weight. After sorting through and separating a few years worth, I felt very sad. The envelopes were a record of where I had been at moments during a peripatetic time. My solution was to sew them together in monthly batches.” The resulting work is an exploration of memory, its fragmentary nature, its insistence, and its repetitions. By transforming the postmarked envelopes into something new, Van Horn both records their original meaning (her connection and communication with a particular person, at a particular time, in a particular place) and creates a new and separate meaning for each envelope, now the raw materials of a work of art, the component parts of a large-scale art project.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 +983R

++ See also Leftovers + Portrait & Likeness


1989, Docking, Norfolk, England: Coracle, 1991

A calendar of a sort, on its surface 1989 records Erica Van Horn’s travels in 1989; the varied representations of days in the calendar portion of the book correspond with the dates in the index, which indicate where Van Horn was on all the days of the year. The visual patterns of the book, both the calendar pages and the dates and location index, are immediately recognizable, and so at first glance, the broad narrative of the book seems obvious. Following the index, however, Van Horn includes a kind of ratio: 365 / 231. The index and calendar do not reveal the nature of the 231 days, complicating what seems at first glance like a straightforward narrative. In this case, Van Horn uses visual patterning both to reveal and to conceal; a basic narrative is visible but a private narrative is hidden in plain sight. Van Horn underscores the personal and semi-private nature of this calendar-diary by using her own handwriting for both the calendar-drawings and the book’s text.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 991N

++ See also Visual Narrative & the Plot of Pattern

Yellow Woodgrained Table

Yellow Woodgrained Table, [Paris: s.n., 1986]

The very exaggerated wood-grained surface of the table in this work makes the table’s surface as significant as the objects it holds, creating a curious still life in which the focal point of the painting seems to shift foreground to background and back. Remarking on the format, Van Horn calls this work “a folding painting, a kind of non-religious version of a retable.” The accordion format makes this work a text-less book, a visual tabletop sequence of images unfolding panel by panel.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 986Y

++ See also Visual Narrative & the Plot of Pattern

Living Locally, 1-15

Living Locally, 1-15, Ballybeg, Grange, Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland: Coracle, [2001-2009]

In her Living Locally series, Van Horn celebrates the landscape, culture, and community of her adopted home in rural Tipperary, Ireland. Collecting, documenting, and illustrating the regional language of the area, Van Horn both acknowledges her position as a kind of outsider (a “blow in,” in the local slang, referring to “anyone who moves here from somewhere else”) and locates herself firmly within the community. The Living Locally series also calls attention to Van Horn’s sheer love of the curious and quirky turns she finds in English, the aurally pleasing sound combinations, the paradoxically conflicting meanings from one locale to another, and the language’s endless flexibility and transformability.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 2002S

++ See also Language: Foreign & Local

On Fruit & Vegetable Bags

On Fruit & Vegetable Bags, 31 Portraits, Self & Projected: One a Day, May 1986, [Paris: s.n.], 1986

This book is the result of Van Horn’s daily practice, for 31 days, of making self-portraits. By drawing her own portrait—“self and projected”—each day, Van Horn documents the unglamorous daily work of the artist, while also exploring her own image, day by day and into an as-yet-undescribed future. Thus, Van Horn creates an unfolding visual autobiographical narrative, creating a record of her own evolving sense of herself. Of her choice of materials for this book, Van Horn writes “I loved the small paper bags given out in the greengrocers. This was a way to use them without having the bags be the focus. The bags were the everyday.” In her choice of materials, Van Horn reveals her interest in reclamation, reworking, and repurposing the things of daily life, including in this case the artist’s own self image.

Beinecke Call Number: Zab V3115 +986N

++ See also Portrait & Likeness + Leftovers