Images from Natural History, 16 x 20 inch cynotype impressions over digital prints,installation at the Portrait Society, 2012.
They wished to flower,
and flowering is being beautiful:
but we wish to ripen,
and that means being dark and taking pains.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
In Natural History, plant forms reveal, conceal and integrate with portraits to form images of women in the ripeness of their years. Personal histories play against the processes of the natural world.
The underlying images were inspired by Roman portrait busts which express the authority and dignity of their subjects. Experimentation brought them together with the cyanotype process in this project.
Cyanotype uses an iron salt solution, which when applied to our digital prints, produces a light-sensitive surface. Overlaying flowers on the sensitized portraits creates a layering of histories and narratives. It evokes Anna Atkins who used the process for the purpose of botanical illustration in the 1840s. She is credited with being the first woman to use photography in her books of cyanotype impressions of British flora. It reminds us of photography’s renderings of both empirical evidence and poetic connections.
The impression of blue veiling over our portraits is a combination of tonal variations and brushed application. Prussian blue (the result of the chemical interactions of the cyanotype process) is a color rare in nature. It is revered in some cultures to be as precious as gold. It is a hue of royalty and the higher vibrations, the color of shadows and twilight and of transition at death.
Lyrical, tribal, dark or veiled, the botanical forms and human features coalesce in each image suggesting the complexity of a personality and a life lived--an inner and outer world in continual flux. Rejuvenation, regeneration, cycles of death and rebirth mirror one another and grow together into gardens of infinite connection.
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