Photopolymer Prints and Monotypes
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. --T. S. Eliot
About Me: The Same River Twice
My first home and the place where my heart still lives is the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, a land of layered blue mountains, tangled woods, and wandering rivers. I was greatly blessed to have parents who revered the natural world, my mother as an artist and my father as an environmentalist. New Mexico has its own kind of beauty, grand and expansive, but even here I find myself seeking out intimate spaces and ordinary subjects that, on close observation, reveal unexpected dimensions.
I received my bachelor of arts degree in anthropology from Duke University and both bachelor of fine arts and master of fine arts degrees from Eastern Michigan University, with a concentration in serigraphy and traditional intaglio printmaking. My woodcuts, serigraphs, etchings, and mixed media paintings were included in more than 30 regional and national shows.
From my first class in printmaking I felt an immediate affinity for the discipline but also great concern about the impact, on the environment and my health, of the highly toxic materials. So, after I had finished my MFA and no longer had access to a printmaking studio, I explored a number of other media, finally settling on pastel and acrylic paintings, occasionally mixed media pieces.
And then, about ten years ago, I was thrilled to learn about a nontoxic process of etching using a thin steel plate coated with a light-sensitive emulsion that is exposed to ultraviolet light and etched in water. No more acids, no more toxic solvents! It has been a kind of homecoming to return to the medium that was my first love, with all its technical challenges and esthetic possibilities. The process is exacting and time-consuming, but nothing I've experienced in art surpasses the AHA! moment when the first proof of a new plate is pulled.
Night of the Wolf Moon
About the Process: Successive Approximations
The first step in making a photopolymer plate is to create an image on a transparent surface using an opaque black medium. This transparency is placed face-down on the etching plate, which is covered with glass and exposed to the sun. Wherever light reaches the plate, the emulsion is hardened, while unexposed areas remain soft and can be washed away with water. This leaves a plate with marks etched into the surface, which will trap the ink when the plate is inked and wiped, exactly like a traditional etching plate. The press roller forces the damp printing paper into the etched depressions in the plate, thus transferring the ink to the paper.
Many of my prints require three or four to as many as seven plates printed sequentially to achieve the final image. To add color and texture, I sometimes use a process called chine collé, which involves laying pieces of thin rice paper on all or part of the plate. When the plate goes through the press the image is printed on the rice paper, which is simultaneously glued onto the printing paper.
Since I begin with small editions, usually no more than eight or ten prints, often at the end what I have is a monoprint series--that is, a series of prints which are one-of-a-kind but are related by the fact that they all began with the same plate or plates. The process of experimentation inevitably results in unintended consequences--some prints that work and some that don't. The hope is always that each print gets closer to the concept I had in mind when I began. Kind of like life. As Stephen Sondheim says in Sunday in the Park with George, "The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not."