I identified as a writer before I did as an artist. Words were never a problem for me. The pace of constant, disheartening information about the state of American society over recent years, however, has frequently compelled me to react with silence. I no longer feel able to put forth the words to respond to any one political, societal, or environmental crisis, before another one arises. As I find myself less and less able to start conversations about such situations, my work has shifted into exploring words and their inability to capture resulting emotions, or express the maddening pace at which information comes forth.
My “Mantra” and “Vague Words” series distill my reactions to personal and political events into singular words. I use stencils to create a resist onto silver gelatin photo paper, and process the prints to create chemigrams. I then cut these prints, rearrange them to disrupt the letterforms, and either sew them into singular physical pieces, or construct them into sculptural works. I aim to represent not just the chaos of information, but to abstractly embody the essence of each word within the piece, as the literal word feels so ineffective. In my most recent works that have turned to broader issues affecting my country, I am finding that I need to share the word in the title, perhaps indicating a boiling over point has arrived.
My formal concerns with this work involve using wood and thread to equate the photographic paper with a sculptural material. I look to parallels between sewing and analog photography, in that both sewing machines and silver gelatin prints were once considered more automated technologies, but nowadays are viewed as involved in the creation of “hand-made” objects. These pieces celebrate photographic paper as a physical medium, more than simply the substrate on which an image from the outside world rests. The silver gelatin paper is freed to accomplish its essential property – record the presence of light.