Elements in the Landscape is a collection of new, experimental work showing at TAF. I have printed, onto silk, digitally manipulated original photographs of natural objects and built structures in the Indiana landscape. I have further altered the images with machine stitching. For years I resisted digital photography as anything other than a documentary medium. But I’ve come to see that it plays directly into my fascination with transparent layers – which have been a core element in my work for years. The stitching adds yet another layer on top of the shifting layers of the printed images. The images are not created to be literal representations of landscape or objects – I am using them the way some artists use dye, to make beautiful fabric that I can stitch on.
You can read detailed descriptions of the technical and creative processes at the end of this page.
Each image in this gallery includes the finished piece and the photographs used in its creation. WordPress has made their gallery viewing a little more convoluted; click on the first picture below, which will take you to the gallery. Under each image, as it comes around on the guitar, there is a “PermaLink”. Click on that and it will bring up the image in a larger, sharper format. You can use Control + to enlarge it further, or click the magnifying glass to super-size it (a good way to see the component photos, if you scroll down). You can click through the gallery, or use your browser bar’s back button to go back to the main page.
The horizontal pieces are 22.5″x 14.5″, framed, $500; the vertical pieces are 20.5″x 25.5″, $520.
PROCESS: The original images are photos taken with a digital SLR camera. I have combined and manipulated them in Photoshop, which is a learning experience all in itself, which is part of what makes this experimental work. Learning to use Photoshop is like learning to drive in that you have to actually do it to learn it. Each of the pieces in this show is accompanied by the unretouched, straight-up photos that went into them.
I have sets of nice, but fairly straightforward photographs — river scenes, abandoned built structures, fruits and berries, birds, and so on. Flipping through them, playing with what will juxtapose well, monkeying with colour and transparency, and then refining a promising image, feels a bit like playing with a deck of cards – seeing patterns, and out of the patterns a story – or a fortune – begins to emerge.
Once I’m satisfied with the image, I prepare to print it onto fabric, in this series, on silk. I use an Epson Workforce 1100 that prints up to 13”x 44”. I cut a sheet of freezer paper to the size of the print, and iron the silk onto it. This stabilises the silk enough to run through the printer.
After the print has dried, I peel the silk off the freezer paper, then layer it on backing materials, which vary depending on the amount of loft I want in the finished piece. The threads I use to stitch with include rayon, silk, vintage silk buttonhole twist, and vintage cottons in wonderful colours. The stitches are simply a way of mark-making on the fabric, albeit one that adds literal depth and texture.
“I LEARN BY GOING WHERE I HAVE TO GO” (Theodore Roethke, 1908-1963 ): I said this work was new, and experimental. I had done a little digital work – commissioned portraits of buildings, for example, The Light of North Church, but those are pretty straightforward, just a little cleaning up and making a creative background.
As I worked my way through sixteen pieces (and more than sixteen never-printed experiments) I realised that the core of the experiment wasn’t learning to use Photoshop, or printing on non-standard materials. The core of what I’m exploring is the relationship between the printed digital image and the stitching.
I said I was creating beautiful fabric to stitch on. Each piece of fabric is unique: some are suited for heavy stitching, lots of mark-making on top of the fabric; others asked for just a touch of stitching, to emphasise some aspect of the printed image.
I’m working towards an intuitive understanding of the interplay of the original images, what they can do in Photoshop and how they play with others. And then, finally, to be able to judge what kind of final print will work with what kind of stitching.
I’m getting a feel for these relationships, but! The materials will always surprise you. “I learn by going where I have to go.”