The Meandering Thread: The Work of Enid Mark '54

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Enid Mark studied literature and art at Smith College and later became a creator of artist's books. View the exhibit through July 31, Neilson level 3.
Date Exhibit
May 14-July 31 The Meandering Thread: The Work of Enid Epstein Mark, '54
Book Arts Gallery, Neilson Library level 3 - hours

Enid Epstein Mark, and her husband Eugene Mark, have been long-time friends of the Mortimer Rare Book Room, and the rare book collection includes many of Enid’s books. This retrospective exhibition of her work—books and prints—is presented in her memory and on the occasion of the 55th reunion of her class at Smith College.

[click to enlarge]
Lithographed image by Enid Mark and poem by Mark Jarman
from The Inconstant Moon edited, illustrated, and published by The ELM Press in 2007.

Enid Mark grew up in New York City on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. After a summer camp counselor showed her dad some of her drawings, she was enrolled in a Saturday morning art program at the Brooklyn Museum. Enid attended the High School of Music and Art, made widely known a generation later by the film and TV series Fame. She attended Smith College from 1951 through 1954, where she majored in English literature and minored in art. Numerous courses made lasting impressions that instilled in her a lifelong passion for literature, poetry, and the arts. More importantly, she developed close friendships that endured a lifetime. Enid married Eugene Mark on the Sunday following her graduation from Smith.

Before Enid developed her niche as an artist, she was torn between writing and art. It wasn't long before art won out. She never migrated from drawing, but worked at painting, wood cuts, silk screen, printmaking, hand lithography and ultimately, creating and producing limited edition artist's books. Her books today are in more than one hundred rare book and special collections in college, university and museum libraries in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Israel.

After visiting a Philadelphia gallery show of Enid's prints, Ruth Mortimer, class of 1953 and curator of rare books at Smith College, suggested that they collaborate on an artist's book. Enid was taken with the suggestion but realized that before she attempted this collaboration she needed to become sufficiently knowledgeable. Three or four years later, after she took a course in book design and gained familiarity with fine letterpress printing, hand-set typography, fine papers, hand lithography, and hand bookbinding, she produced Promises in her studio, a book pairing photolithographs of images from Israel with biblical passages. A year later she was back in touch with Ruth Mortimer, who had been collecting literary allusions and metaphors to thread and weaving. Enid selected the specific poems and provided the artwork and design and orchestrated the production and binding of the book. The result in 1986 was The Bewildering Thread, and with it the establishment by Enid of her own imprint, The ELM Press.

From the production of The Bewildering Thread, Enid's work for the next 25 years, thrived on collaboration with writers, printers, and bookbinders. She managed to publish a new limited edition book every year to eighteen months. Her work continually explored the relationship between text and image. Most texts are by contemporary women poets. Each book has been devoted to a theme such as travel, mythology, botany, time, and space. For example, About Sylvia was a tribute to her close college friend, Sylvia Plath, with poetry about Sylvia by other writers. This book also contains an extensive memoir of Sylvia and explains how, indirectly, Sylvia was a catalyst in bringing Ruth Mortimer and Enid Mark together.

Enid struggled for the last year of her life with multiple myeloma and died peacefully at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania on the morning of September 30, 2008, at the age of 76. In addition to making a lasting contribution to the world of artist's books, Enid was an avid reader, concert goer, New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle solver, traveler, and extraordinary cook and baker. This retrospective exhibition of her work is from the collection of the Mortimer Rare Book Room, on the occasion of Enid's 55th reunion from Smith College in May 2009.

-Eugene Mark


Barbara Blumenthal
Mortimer Rare Book Room
(413) 585-2906