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In Familiars, I experiment with the creation of cyanotype photograms to create processual work that combines notions of painting and photography to create abstract, alchemical images.


At first, my interest in cyanotype lay in the process of working with physical photography rather than digital. The light-sensitive photogram process allowed me to create compositions that worked alongside the spatial relationships of objects. In creating these works, however, I began to create a more processual body of work that was inspired by painting and material exploration. Each print became an opportunity for experimentation of the cyanotype chemicals, exposure length, layering, rinsing and base materials like paper, glass, and mirror. Each experimentation was an inspiration for another, creating a process-oriented body of work.


This process is raw—chemicals mixed together, painted on paper, absorbing the light that the objects placed on the paper allow it to absorb. The edge quality of the reflected light is the only clue to the object’s nearness, but captured here, they are all placed physically on the same plane. It is also a humanized mechanical process. Each image is processed in stages, working through each stage to create a final product that is not completely within my control. There is a sense of ambiguity in creation—a loss of understanding of the narrative in the process of production.


Cyanotypes result from exposing a mixture of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide on paper.  This alchemical process of concocting a time- and light-sensitive mixture and applying it to a surface creates a sense of urgency in the works; once exposed to sunlight, there is limited time to place the objects in the correct position. Consequently, the images were created with only a few gestures, which inspired many of the large moves made within the work. The blue tone of the cyanotype print is “the result of the reaction of ferrous ions from the photo reduction of ferric ammonium citrate in combination with potassium ferricyanide.” (James 168) I allow this recognizable dark blue to become visible in many of the works, to highlight the photographic process. Through experimentation, I changed the standard colors of the cyanotypes to expand their material recognition. Sigmar Polke’s alchemy paintings were a source of inspiration for me. They have a sense of experimentation to create layered and complex images. His variety of materials are more varied and volatile, but create cohesive and intense paintings. Barbara Kasten’s photographs also hold significance for me in their flattening of three-dimensional space to create graphic images. Pushing the cyanotype medium into new areas generated ideas of how these images could be created. Making a process for producing this painterly-photographic work became the focus as a new way to create work.


The interaction of light and photo-sensitivity creates a sense of capture in the work—documenting that which exists physically as well as in the image. The photo-sensitive materials allow a sense of three-dimensionality, where sharp lines and blurs record the three-dimensional matter set on the paper, be it chemical liquid or solid object, in a two-dimensional plane.


The embodiment of ambiguity of these works will hopefully leave the viewer to wonderment. As a maker, I am fascinated by how these processes create captivating images through intervention. In the progression of experimentation, I try and fail often to control how the images will come out; I must let go of the process to an extent, in order for the materials to do their own work and create these images. By showing a number of these images as objects, they become an item of wonder and interest as they are to me. In this way, they hold a more physical, three-dimensional presence as they did in the processes of production. The works differ in how they were made, but create a conversation with one another in the treatment of space and color to create a sense of cohesion amidst a great variety of development. 


Creating process-oriented work instead of product-oriented work changed my perspective on artistic control. I allowed myself to make larger and simpler moves in the process of experimentation to create a new quality of image. The qualities of light and chemical used inspire the moves made to create this work. The result is an ambiguous, processual body of work that carries a trace of the pieces used to create it—light, chemical, object, and the hand.

Familiars: Project
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