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No Color but the Light

(For more info on this project, please go to: polichetti.art)

Honoring the centennial of women’s suffrage, No Color but the Light is a highly illustrated YA blend of historical, horrific, and magically real elements best described as an all-female One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.

In 1922, 18 year old Dylan Penn is a staunch suffragette who’s been told she’s psychotic so many times she almost believes it. She’s locked in an asylum with a killer and a thief who doesn’t speak. Ill-treated by a doctor who experiments on “the forgotten” patients once they turn 19. But everything changes one bleak, autumn day when Glory May arrives on their ward.

Glory’s a young Ukrainian immigrant-turned-Ringling Brothers tightrope walker, marked by savage scars on her back. Everyone is swept away by Glory’s fantastical tales: Flying girls and magical kingdoms, fire-breathing giants and a Turkish, human cannonball. But Glory isn’t there to tickle their fancy; Glory is there to save them all.

She tells them it was God who tore off her wings and left her scarred for her sins. Now freeing the misfits on their ward is her last chance to earn redemption. Dylan thinks she’s crazy, maybe even dangerous. But when the doctor’s secret past starts to come to light, the ghastly “cures” he inflicts on the girls turn personal, then deadly. Their world shrinks, the walls close in, and Glory becomes their beacon in the doctor’s raging storm.

They rush to her like moths to a flame.

Dylan wants so much to believe that Glory really is an angel, there to save them all from the doctor’s retribution. But if she’s just a lonely girl—conjuring a fantasy to cope with a traumatic past, and the bone-crushing feeling that she doesn’t deserve to live—then following her escape plan could be fatal to them all.

Just as it is for every moth that makes it to the flame.

Hurt people hurt people, so they say.
And it’s so damned hard to break the circle.

Set in the Northampton Insane Asylum (a real place torn down in 2006), this story examines the chilling impact of a corrupt patriarchy on the wellbeing of women and asks the evermore timely question: Who, as a society, do we choose to believe? And whose truths, historically, have been marginalized or ignored? It flips the traditional hero’s journey by showing the path from extraordinary to ordinary in a positive light. And it draws stylistic influence from the traditions of magical realism to create a surreal atmosphere and show how believing in something greater — even if it’s a crazy fantasy — can offer hope and joy in the darkest of worlds.

Complete at 95,000 words, the story of this sometimes-harrowing, sometimes-hopeful world is written in the tradition of feminist novels with a twist such as Alias Grace and The Handmaid’s Tale. It’s fantastical tone will appeal to fans of Bone Gap and The Astonishing Color of After, while its visuals will appeal to fans of Shaun Tan and the Miss Peregrine series by using art in unexpected ways to explore a deeper understanding of the past.

No Color but the Light examines the chilling impact of a corrupt patriarchy on the wellbeing of women and asks the evermore timely question: Who, as a society, do we choose to believe? And whose truths, historically, have been marginalized or ignored? But it also draws from a well of magical realism to show how believing in something greater—even if it’s a crazy fantasy—can offer hope and joy in the darkest of worlds.

Written in the spirit of feminist novels with a twist such as The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace, this story will appeal to fans of Bone Gap and The Astonishing Color of After while the visuals will appeal to fans of Shaun Tan and the Miss Peregrine series. Both of which use art in unexpected ways to explore a deeper understanding of our the past.

Originally written with a dual timeline, a second story also exists. Finite Infinity is a (retro)contemporary mystery with a slow-building romance, a pack of friends and speculative twist that offers up a second chance as the infinite circle of life continues on. Appealing to fans of A Heart in a Body in the World, I’ll Give You the Sun and Revolution. As well as more speculative works such as We Were Liars, The Hazel Wood and The Raven Boys…

In 2006, four students from Rhode Island School of Design discover the long-abandoned asylum and unravel their connection to a killing that took place there 80 years before. But as history slowly begins to repeat, so will death—unless they find a way to break the circle.

Project Details

An illustrated YA novel set in the early 1920s.

Pencil drawings,
with digital painting.

Historic photographs,
bookmaking and collage.