The tintype is a photograph of unimpeachable physicality. Its process is tangibly demanding, unforgiving, and reverential. It cannot be rushed or it rebels, as the silver salts that form the tintype are "alive," like all Alchemical metals. Excellent Specimens is a speculation on the tintype's chemical and optical carnality.
Should an artist fall in love with their process? The question plagues me the way a lover wonders how far they will follow their beloved when they already know they have gone too far. I have been seduced by the silver sheen of the tintype- infected, even. And I seek to infect others.
The tintype process is demanding, belaboring, unforgiving, and reverential. It cannot be rushed or it rebels. Hand-made photographs in the 21st century are more than simply atavistic- to even attempt this process in the context of contemporary art seems like a lost cause. And I am a total sucker for lost causes.
A “Novena” is a prayer, often made seeking assistance from St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, repeated over nine days.
In the Tarot, the IX card of each suit is the expression of the Hermit of the Major Arcana- the card indicating the achievement of a pinnacle, where one may look upon that part of your nature and see the grand pattern.
The rigor of this process tends it towards the indexical- so I cataloged what was around me, the detritus of common life, the detritus of my studio, the detritus of recently obsolete technology, and the most literal detritus of domesticated plant life. I try to relate to this flotsam, to give it some small kind of reverence through this process.
Each piece is one 6"x8" tintype in a "helping hands" device, attached to a wood plaque.
The Mustard Gas Phantasies of Wilfred Owen 2009
On November 4, 1918, exactly one week before the signing of the Armistace that ended the Great War, 2nd Lieutenant Wilfred Owen was killed at the Sambre-Oise Canal, in northern France. He was twenty-five years old. His fame, and his Military Cross medal, were awarded to him posthumously.
Owen is now recognized as one of the greatest of the "Trench Poets," those young men who transformed their experiences on the battlefield into poetic verse. At the time of his death, he had published five poems, most of them in an impromptu literary journal which Owen himself edited and published, as he was being treated for "shell shock" at Cocklingheart War Hospital.
I don't like poetry, but I love the poetry of Wilfred Owen. His depiction of the horrors of trench warfare are rife with rich visual metaphor. His descriptions are tactile and visceral. Transforming the anguish and bloodshed of war into gritty and lofty words is an act of purest devotion and bravery.
The Mustard Gas Phantasies of Wilfred Owen is an homage to this supremely imaginative young man. I envisioned what sort of hallucinatory visions he may have had as he was lying on the battlefield in the quiet moments of the war.
The modern world was born in the last moment of his life, emerging from his fevered dreams. Poetic sensitivity, the great refuge of the Romantic, was assassinated by the horror of industrialized slaughter. Civilization has been poorer for it ever since.
"Blood's dirt!" he laughed
damn your iodine
great pocks and scabs
leap of purple spurted
limped on, blood-shod
mud in ruck on ruck
some profound dull tunnell
stained stones kissed
he's lost his colour very far from here poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry
hear with hunger of blood, blue with all malice, like a madman's flash
stray blood came creeping from the intrusive lead, like ants on track
the flickering gunnery rumbles, like a dull rumour of some other war
who feels upon a hand, but late love-warm, a hardness of indifference
alive, he is not vital ovemuch ; dying, not mortal overmuch
now begin famines of thought and feeling love's wine's thin
when the whiteness of the spectral moon had terrorized the creatures of the wold
urged by earnest violins and drunk their mellow sorrows
the hilarious hideous awful falseness of set-smiling corpses
A cyanotype project inspired by the work of Anna Atkins and others who work with the long tradition of floral and botanical specimens in alternative photo-process. Using the scanner as a camera, I place the small objects directly on the scanner bed and make very high resolution image files, then enlarge them and print as inkjet negatives, to then be contact printed as cyanotypes.
"Abscission" is a general term for an organism shedding or losing parts of itself, but usually refers to the process of a plant creating a small "abscission zone" at the base of a leaf stem, which eventually gives way and causes the leaf to fall.
Though only a few pieces from this series were ever exhibited, and it was meant to be more of a technical exercise than a fully realized project, over the years I have grown more fond of these little images.
Each is a 9" x 11" cyanotype photograph on Stonehenge paper
Unknown Unknowns: The Life and Work of Charles Doublevay 2005
My MFA Thesis show, California State University, Fullerton, 2005.
A "fictional history," the project outlines the life and work of Charles Doublevay in the manner of a documentary retrospective, with myself cast in the role of curator and "discoverer" of Doublevay's work.