To Be Determined
A series of questions, as yet unanswered, inspire a material exploration. In a world full of digital imaging devices, might traditional photographic techniques call direct attention to their very nature as a result of chemical processes? Can breaking the "rules" of photographic printmaking help to make that as explicit as possible? What defines the borders between photography, painting and printmaking? Are these borders permeable, or even unnecessary, in a post-medium art landscape? The history of print-making from the Renaissance to the industrial revolution - woodcut to engraving to etching to stone lithography, can be read as an effort to bring the artist's gesture in more direct connection with the finished print, often in an effort to provide greater fidelity. Can painterly techniques also be applied to photographic printmaking, taking cues from both pictorial photography and abstract and/or expressionist painting, in order to make printed images that use the focus on the process of their creation as a way to enhance the communication, particularly emotional content? What themes beyond simply exploring process for its own sake could these techniques be used to explore, comment on, or illuminate? Can a theme or issue be translated into the printmaking process itself, thoughts becoming gesture, feeling an artifact in paper? What subject matter lends itself to this process?
One particular thing to note, is that the predictability of these methods is very much a question as well. Working in the dark, in a very limited time frame, and making strokes that cannot be seen for several seconds, and even then with barely visible results - it is a method that requires embracing chance and lends itself to an iterative state, working one after another to keep the last attempt fresh in mind for the one at hand while simultaneously looking ahead to the next one. I hope that too is visible in the resulting sequences, even when later edited, ordered and remixed. This complex way of working dovetails with the themes I choose, problems that afflict our society and require solutions that look at the world as existing in a non-linear, entropic state, a multiverse that feels foreign at a moment in history that seems to default to binary positions on seemingly every social and political issue of relevance.
Series #6: Utopian Mirror
Series #5: The Lifted
Series #4: To the Other Side
Series #3: Encroachment
This image was originally made in December 2015, a pre-dawn excursion on my way to work. I am not sure why, but I shoot more often or more adventurously or perhaps more intentionally in the winter (the relatively tame DC winters help I suppose). Seeing this scene, the U.S. Capitol building alight, the lawn and reflecting pool in front lost in murky darkness, and the bare branches of a tree creeping overhead, I imagined the Earth plotting against policies favoring corporate interests over planetary survival, but the light of the ideal fading into a night of misplaced priorities. Is it too late?
Based on my explorations in Series #1, the texture and slightly warm tone of the the Art 300 paper suited the theme, the blacks having a lustrous character that implies depth but remains impenetrable. I began with the horizontal brush strokes that worked so well with the tree image, and the sabatier technique to further obscure the image by creating an extra layer of tones in the border and the areas where the brushwork left gaps. Eventually my application process grew more bold and created greater tonal variations so I left the gaps as the original paper tone to increase contrast and highlight the strokes themselves.
Series #2: Transitional Architecture
When I take Amtrak, I see this scene near Penn Station in Baltimore. Something about it catches my attention every time. Something familiar, yet always changing, a chance encounter on shifting seas speaking to the questionable nature of our perceptions, so easily manipulated, distracted, replaced. Yet there is an undeniable structure, a framework to the way we process information, and thus the way we organize our own creations, both conceptually and through a visual frame provided by our infrastructure. But it decays, left to rot without investment.
The Ilford Art 300 paper provided the combination of tones and textures that seem perfectly suited to opened ended questions, but the variations within this series are a bit more constrained, minor adjustments and random chance providing small, incremental changes from one iteration to the next.
Series #1: Tree Destruction
Let's begin by thinking of ways to obliterate an image. We continue to usher in a new climate reality, a billion little steps summing to oblivion, our hands clamped firmly in the cookie jar. A willow tree, misting rain at dusk, twisted, mangled and destroyed through chemical processing, manipulated by human hands. One repeated to represent the many lost each day. Maybe the best way to represent how out of control we are, how much bigger the forces at play are than any individual, we must turn to the improper method.
From variations in the timing of different steps in the process to using several tools to apply the chemicals, using different types of paper and toner to mixing and matching and even layering these alternatives, the first series is by its nature the most expansive, trying every method I could think of, allowing each print in a session guide me to decisions and changes for the next print, and then resetting with each new session, sometimes doubling back and other times skipping away.