Edition of 26 copies
Book closed 2.25” x 2.25”
Book opened 2.25” x 14”
Full-sized graham cracker 2.25”x4.75”
Slate pencil 5”
Marshmallow 1” x 1.2” diameter paper box 5.5” x 3.5” x 6.25”
Bologna, Italy and Skowhegan, Maine 2007
An experience in front of a meticulous, hyper-realist family portrait by Holbein the younger of Sir Thomas More’s family in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London ultimately led to this piece on Sir Thomas More(1478–1535), a lawyer, writer, practicing orator and trained grammarian. It was actually the wall text of the museum that inspired the work. Reading the painting’s label I realized that More was beheaded for his mores, or moral attitudes. This ironic play on words led me to begin reading biographies on More. In the course of my research, I realized that the American junk food snack S’mores could be an appropriate guise for Sir Thomas More in numerous ways. In the final stages of the project I even discovered that More made plays on words with his own name his whole life, as did his close friend the scholar Erasmus (1466?–1536), who dedicated his most famous book to More, called the Moria, or Moriae Encomium (In Praise of Folly). Moros is fool in Greek. More also punned on his name as morus, which is both fool and mulberry in Latin, and planted a mulberry tree in his garden in Chelsea. Accordingly, the white pages inside the graham cracker volume are composed of mulberry paper. The title also contains the Latin word for death: “mors”. A memento mori is a token or memento of someone’s death. Sir Thomas More invented the pun “Memento Mori aeris” (remember More’s money) as Memento morieris(the remembrance of death). More meditated on death his whole life, and chose destruction by the juggernaut Henry VIII in order to uphold his own faith to the supremacy of the Catholic Pope.
The Catholic faith could also be interpreted as a juggernaut for More, who chose execution in order to be faithful to his belief in the supremacy of the Pope as the head of the church. The term juggernaut originated as the name for the Hindu deity Krishna, celebrated once a year in eastcentral India, with a procession of huge wagons with the deity’s statue inside. The current meanings resulted from people throwing themselves under the wheels of the wagons. The yellow cloth used to make the graham crackers was purchased in the shade of the Juggernaut temple in Bubaneshwar province, India.
More played the fool his whole life, even in the gravest moments, such as his execution. One half of the printed text in the S’more is dedicated to his gallows humor. More and Socrates both wrote in prison, and both are known for their irony. In the end, both insisted on their duty to uphold the process of the law, which resulted in their death. The text on the other side is dedicated to the nauseating, scatological language exchanged between Martin Luther and Sir Thomas More in Latin. It should be noted that Henry commissioned his Lord Chancellor More to write this nasty rebuttal to Martin Luther, but More published it under an alias, William Ross. Sir Thomas More wrote with a slate pencil or piece of charcoal in his prison cell in the Tower of London in the months preceding his execution. He was beheaded and his head was impaled on a spike on London Bridge, as was the norm. Oddly, More was once the legal advisor for maintenance and administration of this bridge.
His image, based on a drawing by Holbein, was cast in bronze and branded on a paper marshmallow. Chocolate was not a part of More’s time. It appeared, in liquid version, only towards the end of Sir John Denham’s life. So apart from the brown text, the chocolate is represented in absentia. I replicated a Butler’s Chocolate box brought as a gift, modifying it slightly in the die-cut to double as a reliquary chest, often called a pilgrim’s purse. One of the most famous reliquary chests in this shape contained the remains of the other London Catholic saint, Thomas Becket. More grew up a few feet from Becket’s house, and walked by a statue of him on his way to school. He asked Henry VIII if he might be executed on the anniversary of the translation of Becket’s relics. Henry granted More’s wish, and commuted his sentence from disembowelment to beheading. Becket was Henry II’s Chancellor before becoming the Bishop of Canterbury. He was later accused of misappropriating crown funds, and ultimately murdered.
Marshmallows were invented in ancient Egypt. Since the 19th century, gelatin has replaced the actual marsh mallow root, and in 1948 an extrusion process was invented allowing the marshmallows to be neatly chopped into cylinders. Graham crackers were named after the Reverend Sylvester Graham (1794–1851), who advocated a high-fiber vegetarian diet to suppress carnal urges. He also encouraged his followers to drink only water. Sir Thomas More was known for his extremely simple diet, and he wore a hair shirt his whole life. It is doubtful he had a sweet tooth, although his friend Erasmus called him “mellitissime Thoma” or “sweetest Thomas”. The horrible language that flowed from his pen, however, would make it seem appropriate that one of More’s jobs in Henry VIII’s reign was Commissioner for Sewers.
Perhaps it is best not to dwell on the juggernaut of destruction and death. This work, including all of the cast-paper, branded marshmallows and all of the cast-paper graham crackers, along with their molds, cotton pulp and cloth fragments used to make them, were thrown in the trash by maintenance workers at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, who abruptly emptied the contents of my Faculty studio by mistake. Luckily, the work was rescued out of a mountain of trash bags which had not yet been taken to the dumpster. The marshmallows and half-sized graham crackers, used for the covers of the book, survived virtually unscathed. Unfortunately, most of the full-sized graham-crackers, which were still drying when they were thrown away, were flattened on the surface, as if indeed they had passed under a steam roller. Thus, in an unexpected conceptual twist, the juggernaut was manifested in the graham cracker pulp as well as on the surface. The full-sized graham crackers, whose dotted lines make the sign of the cross, gruesomely symbolize the torture the other three heretics that were in the Tower of London with Thomas More went through, several weeks before he himself was executed. Their hands, as if clasped in prayer, were attached to boards they lay upon while being dragged several miles to the location where they were executed through torture.
Cast paper marshmallows created from cotton half-cut fibers produced in Israel, mixed with water and PVA glue by the artist together with Ash Parilla in the artist’s Bologna studio. Cast paper Graham Crackers made from cotton pulp and linen and cotton cloth by the artist in Skowhegan, Maine using latex molds created by sculptor and ceramicist Rosa Bagnaroli in Bologna, Italy. Antique slate pencils from Portugal, purchased in an antique shop in Maine. Text letterpress-printed on mulberry paper by David Wolfe of Wolfe Editions, Portland, Maine. Acid-free cardstock box die-cut at Scatolificio Corona in San Lazzaro(Bologna), Italy. Brass wire handle.
Dedicated to artist Mary McCarthy, confirmed chocoholic, who was brought up in the Catholic faith, and brought me the paper box of Butler’s chocolates from London. More invented the word “utopia”, meaning “no place” or “a good place” as the title of his novel Utopia, an early and influential example of utopian literature. It inspired Samuel Butler’s utopian novel Erewon, meant to spell “nowhere” backwards.
Or Utopia Impaled:
A Memento Mori
More’s’mores as Metaphor
For More’s Mores and More’s
Mors, in Morus
More, to the porter who escorted him
to his prison cell in the Tower, who
hoped he would accept his lodgings as
cheerfully as possible: “If any here like
it not, turn him out of doors.”
More, upon declining the services
of a barber in prison(apocryphal?):
“The king has taken out a suit on my
head, and until the matter is resolved
I shall spend no further cost on it.”
More, showing a visitor his prison
chamber-pot with urine (apocryphal?):
“For anything I can perceive, this
patient is not so sick that he may do
well, if it not be the king’s pleasure he
More, informed he was to die that very
morning: “For your good tidings I
heartily thank you.” He also thanked
the king for the “benefits and honours”
heaped on him, including prison, where
he had “convenient time and space to
have remembrance of my end,” and
death, “to rid me out of the miseries of
this wretched world.”
More, to the Lieutenant conducting him
up to the executioner’s chopping block:
“I pray you, Master Lieutenant, to see
me safe up, and for my coming down
let me shift for myself.”
More, to the executioner: “Thou wilt
give me this day a greater benefit than
ever any mortal man can give to me.
Pluck up thy spirits, man, and be not
afraid to do thine office. My neck is
very short: take heed there fore, thou
strike not awry.” Edward Hall said
More requested his beard be not cut off.
“Thus with a mock, he ended his life.”
Letterpress printed on mulberry paper
By Wolfe Editions in Portland, Maine.
Marshmallow and graham crackers
Made with cotton pulp from Israel.
Bologna, Italy 2007
Responsio ad Lutherum(1523)
By William Ross (aka Thomas More)
the greatest heap of nasty language
that perhaps was ever put together…
the best knack of any man in Europe
at calling good names in bad Latin.
-Francis Atterbury, 18th c
More wrote that Martin Luther
Said Mass upon the crapper.
In truth, Luther claimed
Visitation on the cloaca.
When Martin Luther
marries a nun,
For More he writhes in incest
And wriggles his bum.
Inside Luther’s mouth
It would be right to meiere
Or even, More suggests,
Further, to incacere.
Response to Luther(1523)
Responsio ad Lutherum(1523)
Luther’s, “I am like ripe shit,
And the world is my arsehole.
We probably will let
Go of each other soon.”
May be one reason
Sir Thomas More