Miss Gowanus

By Meg Belichick

Legend embossed in the back cover of the book:

In celebration of the ingenious Flushing Tunnel
That carries fresh water with each tide
she tosses thousands of tiny white petals from a flower laden barge
Into the newly mixed waters of the Gowanus Canal.
A pale blue satin sash over her starched white gown
Reads in glittering silver lettering, Miss Gowanus

Under the heading ‘Form Follows Content,’ the Queens Library web site describes this book:

"Less-than-traditional materials have been used in Miss Gowanus, a work created and printed by Meg Belichick in 1996. Like the Gowanus Canal, this book is made of organic and inorganic materials. Its cover is embossed sheet lead and the pages are made alternately of gray-tinted photographs of the canal and thin sheets of latex. Miss Gowanus traces the evolution of the Gowanus Canal, which lies between Belichick's home and studio in Brooklyn. The title of the book refers to the inaugural ceremony in 1911 for the Flushing Tunnel and Sewer System, at which a young woman wearing a white dress and tossing flower petals from a barge into the Gowanus Canal was hailed a Miss Gowanus."

Weirdly, almost prophetically, both the library’s heading and the copy of the book in the Jaffe Collection (#2 of an edition of 100) have become sharply ironic: just as Brooklyn’s Gowanus canal has been named a Superfund cleanup site because of its deterioration, the latex pages of the book itself are deteriorating. The malleable lead covers still reflect the homely grayness of the canal waters, but I fear to separate some of the historic postcards from the decaying interleaved latex sheets.

The artist Meg Belichick has printed a brief and moving narrative in white letters on the latex, talking about her childhood near the Gowanus when it was already a place where she didn’t need a rod to catch fish; they floated on the surface

- Judith Klau

  • • Embossed lead cover
  • • Pages alternate between latex and photographs
  • • Edition 2 of 100