My previous post was about a creative collaboration started by photographer Jane Fulton Alt. She provided an original photo, and invited artists to alter or use it in any way. She then posted the results on her blog, and announced round two. I enjoyed round one, even if I was a little intimidated by her photo, and asked to participate in round two. The timing was good-I was about to start Spring break, and knew I would have the time and energy to devote to a second collaboration.
The photo for round two was an interior of an Arts and Crafts style house. I live in a Prairie style house (from that era, anyway), which may be why I felt more comfortable working with this image. As it turned out, however, it took several attempts before I made a piece from this photo that I felt worked. The collage at the top of this post is actually my third attempt.
I tried maying a cyanotype/VanDyke brown combination print first. I found a piece of wallpaper that looked like it could go in that room, and made a border out of it. I like the border, but the cyanotype/VanDyke brown combination didn’t work here. Combining those processes can lead to very unpredictable results. Part of the issue here might be that as an experiment, I printed the cyanotype layer using a negative transparency, and the Van Dyke brown layer using a positive transparency, and the result looks odd. Adding to the failure, the Van Dyke chemistry bleached the cyanotype layer quite a bit, another common issue when attempting these prints.
For my second attempt, I tried making a cyanotype print of the photo (without the wallpaper border) onto a page from an old magazine. Cyanotype is generally easy to do, but it can be a little fussy about the paper used. I chose magazine pages that carried some ‘homey’ content to relate to the photo, and started printing. After four attempts, I decided that the March, 1960 Better Homes and Gardens isn't a good surface to print on. The best of the four tries is what you see here.
With two failed attempts, I decided to try my first idea, which was making a collage (a real cut and paste one, not a digital one). I started by altering the color of the photo, aiming for an old, faded photograph look. I printed it, and made a collage on the print. Thumbing through an old elementary school science textbook, I found an illustration of a girl, her face lit by sunlight. I knew it would look like the lamp in the photo was lighting her face, so I cut out the figure, and it fit perfectly. The baby (from the same textbook) seemed to fit well, and with the girl, made me think of babysitting. That didn’t seem enough to base a collage on, so I decided to play with scale in a Magritte-like manner. As soon as I stuck the pear on the chair, I had my theme: A young girl, on the cusp of adolescence, staring at symbols of fertility and fecundity. I also knew I needed eggs to go on the chair at the right side of the photo. I had to look through about five old textbooks to find eggs the right size.
I like this collage quite a bit. Unlike a lot of my recent collage work, this has a definite content that is (hopefully) pretty easy to discern. I enjoyed the collaboration as well. I think there should be more of this in the art world.