I knew that I was giving up a lot of control when I chose the Chemigram process for Emblem and Artifice – but I was truly unaware of how essential letting go would become. Perhaps even more surprising was how I would be rewarded for doing what I had feared for so long. In some odd way, the printmaking process has become a conversation between the process and me – a surprising two-way dialogue where I listen to the process, mold the prints as much as I can and, at times, allow the process to take control.
While processing the above print, alternating left and right print into fixer and out of developer, my wife came into the darkroom to check on my progress. Initially, I hesitated to speak, concentrating on the dance between the three developing trays in front of me. Yet, finding myself at a brief stopping point, I rushed to show her the first set of prints (Tokkō Tai / Kamikaze) and commented on the success of the new imagery. Within 15 seconds, the right side of the Judenstern image suddenly changed, exposing and nearly turning completely black. I panicked. After all, I only had so many pieces of paper (I had recently counted them) and I needed every print to be perfect. I hastily shifted my focus back on the prints and started coming to grips with the fact that I had likely lost another piece of paper to my lack of focus.
… then the process decided for me. Nearly scorched, this print didn’t easily match up with its paired image – but narratively, the charred remnants of this iconic symbol provided a dark and disturbing connection to the story that, had I been provided the control I yearned for, I would have never been able to create.
I’m humbled by this turn of events. Although it’s difficult to define how to do this, I intend to listen to the process more as I continue to create for this series.
Giving the above image a second chance, I’m much happier with this set of prints than the previous set I shared. Part of its success comes from changing how I create paper templates for these images. For this new set of images, I’ve created Xeroxed templates of each set of prints, ensuring that if I do need to re-print images that I can do so with exactness.
As mentioned above, I’ve taken the time to count the number of sheets remaining. After creating 20 successful pairs of symbols (40 individual pieces of paper), I only have 25 pieces remaining. I’m excited to see what else I create with these final pieces of paper.