One thing I have learned about chemigrams is that you have to let them become whatever they want to be. If you have expectations, you are likely to be let down. That is where I went wrong with the series Attempt to Minify. Or, I suppose, where I went right, in the end.
I was asked to create a piece for a group exhibition that addresses a chosen fear from each participant. While not my most debilitating, I do have an irrational fear of being in the way of movement. Be it taking up too much room in a grocery store with a cart, or going too slow in left lane traffic, I am overcome with anxiety in these situations and have to move as soon as possible. The piece I created (eventually named “Obstruophobia”) has a focal point of chemigram that visually embodies the action of trying to make myself smaller to avoid obstructing movement.
The problem became how to choose a chemigram resist that would create a tree-ring effect that symbolized my desire to become smaller and smaller, enclosing myself into a ridiculously tiny space, with a suffocatingly tight pattern of line. I thought I knew what to use based on past experience, but I was wrong. And my next resist choice after that was wrong. And so on.
My journey of stumbling and failing landed me with this series – a collection of 4” squares that explore a variety of resists that should have given me the precision I wanted in order to conceptualize my idea, although none of them really did it with total success. Again, it’s my fault for expecting a chemigram to become anything more than what it wanted to be. But the results were so almost comically diverse in their textures, lines, shapes, values, and even color, that they got to evolve into their own expression of frustration – how to fail at bending an art medium to your will, and how to find something greater in the ashes of your results.