Gregg Silvis

Great Expectations: loosely knit

Text of Great Expectations

64" h x 38" w x 2" d



Description: The text block of the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations was shredded widthwise so that the text appeared on each of the strips. These strips, over 8,000 of them, were then glued together to create a "book yarn" over 1,000 yards long. The book yarn was then knit into the resulting panel.

Artist Statement

As a librarian surrounded by over two million books every day at work, I was initially drawn to the physicality of this tremendous repository of knowledge, as if the books were just so many rectangular objects arranged over the library’s 10,000 shelves. The actual texts, hidden from a cursory view, reveal themselves, one by one, only to those who choose that one among the many and open it—and then, reading, open it still further. In my series, Great Expectations: de/reconstructed, I explored other ways of opening these texts by returning to their plaintive physicality. My later book-based works, on a larger scale and employing multiple, disparate volumes, evolved from this initial series.


Gregg Silvis was a librarian from 1988 through 2018, working at the University of Delaware Library in Newark, Delaware from 1994. There he oversaw a staff responsible for computing infrastructure throughout the library, the cataloging of all library collections, and technical support of digital scholarship projects across campus. He was a French horn player in a previous life, playing in professional orchestras in northeastern Ohio and in Mexico City. He recently returned to the right side of his brain to pursue artistic endeavors.