By nature I’m inclined to alchemy, whether mixing pigments with sensitizer in the photo lab and exposing prints to the sun, or making medicinal plant tinctures, or preparing ghee in the kitchen. Mixing, stirring, and altering matter. Creating something from something else. I don’t think there’s a higher purpose in life than to create.
My work is the result of engaging two related art forms. One is photography and the other is printmaking. Both are about image making and both involve time. A photograph represents a moment in time, a mere fraction of a second. In contrast, a finished gum bichromate print happens slowly, day after day, a layer at a time, until a week or a month or a year later – you can’t ever be sure – you say “That’s enough, it’s done now.”
I’m interested in the Japanese aesthetic called wabi-sabi. It’s a way of looking at the world that evolved from the Buddhist assertion of impermanence. Wabi-sabi expresses itself in the simple, natural, ever-changing, decomposing world we live in. Fall leaves are an expression of wabi-sabi. So is rust. Beauty in decay. Impermanence.
Water too, along with all the trappings – shoreline, beach, piers, and boats attract my eye. But it’s our interaction with the force of the deep, the dark, the mysterious ocean that keeps my attention. Life beyond the one we’re able to see with our eyes. It draws me close, I think, like a moth to the flame, like a roll of unexposed film in the dark of a camera awaiting the push of the shutter button. Awaiting revelation.
Hand-made printmaking processes like gum take as their starting point the original moment captured in time. But then, layer by layer, something new and decidedly different is born from the original camera image. To be sure, it bears the mark of that first photographic moment, but it also bears something other that cannot be explained solely by the multiple layers of pigment applied.
When it all works just right, the original photograph, the original moment in time, becomes layered not only in pigments but also in a new kind of time, more archetypal in nature, like something from an old memory or a dream one can’t quite remember.
The alchemists implore practitioners of the art to “do their work with true imagination, not a fanciful one.” I think they mean to approach their work with clarity of mind and to carry always the sense of higher purpose that any act of creation deserves. For me, brushing sensitizer and pigment onto artist’s paper and making images that hold truth and beauty is one way I manifest the energy of creation in my life.