Thursday, March 31, 2016

Blogging for Thor: A Recipe for Success

Hello Spiders. As you know, because you read everything I post online, I have been struggling with graduate school. I've always struggled to fit into the Fine Arts community, and it's been particularly bad this year, after not having to worry about it for six years or so. I've been more focused on education, community engagement, experimentation, learning and process. But to succeed in graduate school, I need to be thinking about conversation, experience, presentation and conceptuality. Super fun, right, Spiders?

It was speaking with David Hilliard, the visiting artist for my graduate class, that I was finally able to articulate these difficulties and start coming to a resolution. I've been looking at work by people like Alison Rossiter, Chris McCaw, Brittany Nelson, Marco Breuer, and Christina Z. Anderson. What I needed to do was focus less on the process as the work, and more on the finished image. I'm turning things around and using the techniques I love to make images that are beautiful and engaging on their own.

After talking with David, I went back through my archives and started looking for the really unique, engaging images. I settled in on the food-based lumen-chemigrams that I began experimenting with two years ago. There's a small gallery of them on my Flickr (LINK), but I never really pursued the idea. It was fun, though, and it actually meshes very well with what I've been doing recently at grad school.

My nod to process, and to experience, is to frame my prints as the product of a recipe. The prints exist as themselves, pieces of art to be visually engaging and aesthetically stimulating. But, with each print, there is a recipe. The materials and process used to create that print, listed plainly. In fact, there is literally a recipe, on a recipe card. I work in the kitchen, that's been the center of my process since I left undergrad. Everything I've been doing has been safe for the kitchen, and generally the kitchen has been my darkroom. I carry the same experimental desires I have with photography into cooking, so why not bring things full circle?

The recipe cards I've been making for each print frame the print as a product of my own past, my interests, events in my life and hopes for my future. The same way a cake recipe might be "Kathy's Birthday Cake" and carry with it all the significance of the event it was created for, my photographic recipes are things like "Orange Rice Mitochondria" and carry with them my memories of a favorite book (A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle) as well as representing my interest in biology, science and evolution. Each recipe carries a personal snippet that ties the image back to my life.

So, seriously Spiders, this shit better be Fine Art. Because, I'm actually enjoying it, and I am tired of starting over.

My main task is going to be creating new prints despite terrible weather (apparently New England does not believe in sunlight until July or something..) and tying the appearance of the print to the actual driving force behind the print. My next piece, pH Balance Of Milk And Citrus, needs to actually incorporate the ideas of balance, chemical forces, and somehow reference the destructively complementary nature of acids and bases. Fun, right? Actually... yes!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Blogging for Thor: Stepping Up to the Wet Plate

Today, I made my first wet plate that I actually made myself from start to finish. It's pretty cool. The exposure came out a bit dark, though, which is sad. And it's suuuuuper dusty.

I tried dropping the keys I was holding about 4 seconds before the end of the exposure, but it didn't really register. It just made the image a bit blurry. Though, the exposure was 75 seconds long, so I'm sure some of that blur is just my hands moving.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience. I wish it wasn't so toxic, expensive and involved to make wet plate images. I'd love to shoot my buddies up here. I have so many ridiculously good looking friends here in Boston, it'd be awesome to make wet plates of them all.

The coating came out fairly well, though. That's nice.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Blogging for Thor: Salty Colors

I've been wondering for a while if you can apply chromoskedasic chemistry to alternative process prints. It turns out that, yes, you can. Chromo chemistry will affect salt prints.

Now, before all you Spiders get excited and scurry off, the chromo chemistry tests are so far not terribly dramatic. The activator (potassium hydroxide) definitely seems to have restored some of the redder tones in the print. I applied activator to the leaves in different ways. Stabilizer, so far, has very little effect. It's buffered fixer. The stabilizer was applied roughly to the negative space of the image.

All these results should be taken with a note: the print I tested on is probably one of the worst examples I could have used. Chromo chemistry works best on un-exposed highlights, and these prints are super solarized photograms. There are no highlights left.

So this weekend I'll be doing a regular salt print to test chromo chemistry on. It'll be interesting to see what happens with that.

Also, I decided to see what happens after sunlight and time are applied to a chromo-salt print. So I have this print soaking in a dilute solution of stabilizer and activator, sitting in a metal foil tray, next to a window. I'll check it for changes tomorrow!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Blogging for Thor: Developing Developments

Day 7 of Exposure, Unsalted Silver Nitrate Print
I've currently put my "un-salt" prints on hold for a bit, but I'm sure that I'll be back to them soon. Part of that was finding out that the "cupric chloride" I got from Bostick & Sullivan was actually cuprous chloride. That little difference means quite a lot, since cuprous chloride is a fair bit more dangerous to work with than cupric chloride. It's also not water-soluble at all, so even if I wanted to risk it, I couldn't make a solution out of it. So, that sucked. I do still have several more chemicals, including cesium chloride, that I'm looking forward to testing out. For right now, though, I'm focusing on my actual prints instead of pure research.

What I've been doing lately is making scans of the prints as they develop. This means not only do I get to track the degredation of the print once it's made, I get to see what's happening as the exposure goes on. Since my exposures are upwards of two days, this works pretty well. I'm expecting this will go faster once there starts being brighter, hotter days again.

Overall, I'm enjoying getting a glimpse at the work from the other side. Normally I only get to see if out of the frame when it's finished exposing. I might lose some detail and registration this way (since I have to take the print out of the frame, remove the photogram object, then reassemble the thing after scanning) but I'm getting a lot more information. The process of development is really more fascinating than the process of print decay.