Wednesday, November 28, 2012


So, as I have mentioned before, the process of working with the emulsion in the darkroom lends itself to many unintentional results.  There is a lot of fumbling around and bumping into things, and, especially in the case of painting the emulsion on the fabric, it is impossible for me to tell which areas have been covered and which have not.  This leads to me having to work intuitively, guessing and obsessing over areas that I feel have not been covered enough in accordance to what I plan to do with the image.  Much of my emotional state of mind is captured here, for if I am stressed my process is frantic, or if I'm careful there will be areas of evenly applied emulsion.  In this case, I was obsessive over the area I knew a particular part of my body would be which is evident in the area of thick, dark emulsion.  Somewhere in the process of setting up the light for exposure the dimmer switch got lowered, and so when Jace activated the light it was dimmer, not noticeably so, but dim enough to where when I painted the developer on the surface nothing seemed to happen.  At this point I panicked, and not being able to tell if I had accidentally painted on fixer instead of developer I grabbed the other container of chemicals and painted them on as fast as I could.  I didn't discover that the cause was the light until much later, and the effect of fixer mixing with the developer that was heavily soaked into the fabric produced this result: a completely abstracted image that appears random, but in actuality is directly influenced by my body and psychological affect during it's creation.  My body is present in the color variation and in the surface of the fabric, where the drying emulsion preserved the wrinkles I created, and the patterns and uneven emulsion describe my frustration and stress.  

When examining this piece in class, we decided to rotate the fabric in every possible orientation in order to observe how the compositional elements were affected by direction.  Surprisingly, this piece works in all four orientations, with different elements being either highlighted or diminished depending on your point of view.  What appears to be an abstracted open landscape in one sense may transform into a ruined city when reversed, or when the surface appears to be the star of the piece may suddenly become subdued by the emulsion pattern and distribution.  This is very exciting and something that I will continue to explore in other pieces.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I had mentioned in the last post that a piece I did a few weeks ago had led to a dramatic shift in the way that I approached the work I was doing.  It's been crazy busy, and so I haven't been able to update in the last few weeks, but now I have some breathing room and here is the post ! :)

There were a lot of unexpected results with this piece, being my first attempt at a full body photogram and my first experiment on the raw fabric that I have been purchasing.  The worst horror that I experienced was that because of the absorbance of the fabric, the emulsion did not spread evenly, which is the the cause of the random streaking.  In addition, I lacked a large container to process the fabric in so I had stuffed it into the gallon container containing the chemicals, and all of the excess silver soaked into the fabric and caused all kinds of weird green residue to appear.  On top of all that, you could BARELY make out a ghosted image of my body, and in my mind this aberration was a complete disaster due to my failed attempt at creating the image I had planned.

The next day I brought the piece in expecting harsh criticism, but instead was met with praise.  I was  confused by this and was unable to understand what my professors saw in the gross deterioration I saw before me.  However, upon discussing the piece with them, I came to understand that there is a performative aspect to this work that gives it a depth of meaning and interpretation that I had not anticipated.  In the patterns of the strokes you see the result of my intuitive gestures, and in the wrinkles of the fabric where I laid my body you see the physical evidence of my presence on the material.  In this way, my body becomes the medium and the emulsion captures a shadow converses with the physical manipulation of the surface.  I have never thought of art in this particular way before, in the performative, and I now understand a new way of creating images that are capable of revealing through chance more than I can ever plan to reveal.

Monday, November 05, 2012


    So now I've gotten comfortable enough working with the emulsion that I've begun to do more large scale works, even though using so much of the emulsion at one time kind of makes me cringe!  The last piece I completed, which I will post about later even though it did not turn out anything like I had planned or expected, had revealed an entirely new direction in which to take my art.

    In this piece, titled Touched, I draw upon one of my most vivid and powerful memories: the events leading up to my first kiss.  At this point in my life, I was struggling greatly with the knowledge of  my sexuality and the fear of the consequences from my family.  My father vehemently forbade any expression of being gay,and forced me to go to therapy in order to correct the mental illness I was suffering from.  However, myself, being as strong-willed and bullheaded as he, knew that this was not going to change.  I had known my orientation from the age of 10, and had spent the previous 5 years concealing it and dealing with the emotional consequences on my own.  But this suppression had a backlash, creating an obsessive desire to find someone, to touch, to express these terrible desires that were forbidden, and yet pulling at my core as potently as the need to survive.  I finally found someone who was capable of returning my affections when I was 15, and you cannot imagine the excitement, the relief of knowing I was not alone, that overwhelmed my senses.  Yet even still, I was terrified of my father and of what could erupt upon the discovery of this treasure.  And then that summer, at a friend's birthday party in Galveston, I found myself outside with him out on the patio overlooking the ocean with a strong warm breeze washing over us and the sounds of the crashing waves drowning out everything but us in this electric moment.  The year had already been difficult, with me coming out to my parents and dealing with depression and isolation and the constant threats from my father to both of us.  So at first we were just talking, each safe in our own sleeping bags, but the longer we looked into each others eyes the more irresistible the pull became, until suddenly we were holding each others arms.  Each of us were so desperate to touch one another and share this simple contact and yet so horrified at the thought.  Him with the backlash of religion and me from the strong boot of my dad pressing on me.  The strain of energy coursing across my nervous system was so great I felt as if I could burst at any moment.

And then he kissed me.

There has not been another moment in my life when the touch of another has filled me with so much thrill, so much wanting and need, than in that moment.  Every single detail of that moment and the unimaginable bliss that someone could want me as badly as I wanted them for the first time in the five years I had suffered alone has never faded from my memory, and it is due to such things that I now feel the confidence in myself to express in my art. 

    Here was my process:
I laid a foundation of an oil based primer with my hands upon cloth, using my body to throw and spread the paint, leaving traces of my palms and fingers across the material.  I then used a paint roller to cover this with emulsion, almost erasing the traces with the medium I would then use to capture my body and that of Gavin, in the position that mimicked my memory.  Because the emulsion was a bit tacky, and because it could not bond properly with the oil primer, the contact with our bodies loosened it and caused it to tear where it contacted our skin, and later while processing, giant holes appeared.  The image has become a mirror of the emotional turbulence I felt: a suppressed desire to touch, covered with a superficial appearance that was slowly degrading under the power of this basic need.