Surprising developments in making art

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.

Judenstern - Third Reich
Judenstern – Third Reich


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.

Zyklon B - Third Reich
Zyklon B – Third Reich

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.

Tokkō Tai / Kamakaze - Imperial Japan
Tokkō Tai / Kamakaze – Imperial Japan

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.



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