The prints of trees and woods that compose the “Visible Obscured” series explore the symbiotic relationship between process and subject matter.
In the non-silver process of gum bichromate, the imagery develops through addition and subtraction. Printmaking paper is coated with watercolor pigment that has been thinned with gum Arabic and combined with a sensitizer of ammonium dichromate. Once dried, a negative is placed on top in tight contact and exposed to sunlight or any actinic or UV light source. The paper is then rinsed in water and the areas that receive no exposure from the sun or UV light wash away. What is left is a layer of the print. This process is repeated multiple times with different pigment colors, often brushing away the soft top layer to reveal the exposure beneath and the ethereal layers eventually coalescing into the final print.
Forests, and the trees that compose them, emerge out of a similar dance of layering and revealing. The cambium of trees grows in rings, then divides to create new tissue. Some of this tissue dies each year to become part of outer bark. The trees themselves grow, die, and eventually become soil, out of which grows more trees. Layering and revealing, adding and subtracting, all play a role in this slow yet dynamic process.
Both processes rely upon the energy of the sun to create physical form, be it a tree or a print. The centrality of sunlight is additionally emphasized within the work itself through a focus on compositional tonality.
Certain formal and conceptual sensibilities that occur in this work are also present in my previous body of primarily figurative pieces. Figuration is central, whether the overt subject matter is trees or people. Light defines form. Color plays an integral role in creating mood.
However, “Visible Obscured” represents to me a renewed commitment to “slow art.” That is to say, I work with the non-silver process expressly because it is tedious, laborious, and time-consuming, not in spite of these qualities. My subject matter, the woods and the trees, evolved over centuries. Mirroring and interpreting this process in an artistic manner affords me the opportunity to align myself with elemental forces of nature, to become a creator in the deepest sense of the word.