Saturday, December 6, 2008

My Top Five

My friend Brady recently posted an interesting challenge to “artists and artist wannabes” on his blog. He asks “If you were to go through your work from the last year, could you identify five that, for one reason or another, you like best?”
I love that question. I personally find that in my studio work, I tend to move from one idea or project to another, without much reflection on what I’ve accomplished. Looking back at what I’ve made over the past year is probably a good exercise for that very reason.

2008 was kind of an odd year for me, art-wise. It started at the tail end of my sabbatical, as I was working feverishly in the studio exploring alternative photographic processes. After my post-sabbatical exhibit opened in the spring, my studio work slowed to a trickle as I concentrated on teaching duties. The summer wasn’t as productive as it should have been. I shot a lot of random photos, but a large, stressful, remodeling project (with long delays-the 2 1/2 week estimate turned out to be an 8 week project) kept me from the basement workspace I used for making prints. The remodeling finally was completed (and I got a new darkroom as part of it), but by then I was back in school, and my attention and energy were focused elsewhere.

So, here are my picks. It was difficult narrowing it down to five, but ranking them was even more difficult. I’m not sure the order would stay the same if I rethought it, but what’s most important is that these are my five favorite pieces made this year.


This past summer, I started making cyanotype bookmarks as a way to use up some scrap paper and keep busy in the studio between projects. I ended up designing and printing over twenty different bookmarks. They were a lot of fun, and some of them came out pretty well. This one’s one of my favorites. It’s a little surreal, but more fun than weird. I’m currently relisting this one and my other bookmarks for sale on my Etsy page. I'm also listing a larger version, approx. 3.5" X 18.25“ in a limited print run.


This cyanotype print is made from a Holga photo shot in San Francisco’s Japantown in October , 2007. The print was made sometime late last winter. I love the composition in this image, and the prominent use of negative space. It didn’t fit well with the other work I made at the same time (much of which was in my post-sabbatical exhibition last spring), and as a result hasn’t been seen publicly aside from this blog.


In my original post for this piece, I wrote that it looks like a still from a Guy Maddin film. It’s a duotone gum bichromate print, and it really should be printed a couple more times (gum bichromate prints are made by printing a series of layers of different colors. The more layers, the more intense the colors become). I stopped here because I really liked the gray and light yellow in the print. I made a second version of this print which I exhibited in my show last spring. That version was made with metallic gold acrylic instead of the standard watercolor paints used to make gum prints. It turned out much darker, and has a slight metallic sheen. I still like the faded look of this one, however. The photo was shot in Chicago’s Chinatown with my Holga camera.


My most recent piece, currently hanging in the gallery at Moraine Valley Community College as part of the faculty exhibit. Scroll down a couple of posts to get the full story. This shot, quickly snapped after pinning the piece up to my studio wall, really does not do the piece justice. It looks much better in person.


This gum bichromate print was actually finished in the afternoon last December 30. Close enough to be considered work I made this year. The photo was taken in Chinatown here in Chicago on the day after Thanksgiving. I like this piece for a number of reasons. The photo itself is interesting, I like the subject matter (knickknacks in a shop window) and the use of short depth of field. The print came out really well. It was the second ‘real’ gum print I made after several weeks of running tests to control exposure and color balance in a notoriously picky printing process. I was really happy with the color I got here, and it encouraged me to go further with gum printing.

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