Spiders Then and Now

My work is often inspired by the close relationship between tattoos and the honoring of plants and animals by other cultures, both past and present.

At the Brooklyn Museum is a small exhibition of jewelry, pottery, hunting tools and other objects of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in the Pre-Columbian time. One of the objects is a gold Chiriqui pendant of a spider whose legs end in human hands. This pendant served as an active extension of its owner, like tattoos, and a communicator of awe for a creature of nature.

An artist whose work includes spiders is Louise Bourgeois who saw spiders as elegant, fearsome and protective.

Chiriqui spider pendant in gold.
Gold pendant at The Brooklyn Museum from Costa Rica

Technical Notes

My work is a combination of experimental photographic techniques and hand-applied color.  To make the photographic base image, I collage negatives of photographed tattoos with negatives of flora and fauna.  For the tattoos, I photograph people’s tattoos with a 4X5″ camera and enlarge the negatives onto larger film in the darkroom.  The negatives I use for my imagery of flora and fauna are camera-free.  In the darkroom, I project a small object — a flower or a piece of seaweed, for example — onto negative film with my enlarger.  I try to allow the shapes to take form in an organic process of discovery, working with various degrees of focus in the final image.

I then combine multiple negatives of tattoos with negatives of flora and fauna.  Next, I paint palladium emulsion on handmade translucent Japanese gampi paper.  Once the emulsion has dried, I place the negatives on it and top with glass and expose the image outdoors in the sun.  It can take mere minutes in the summer or even hours in the winter for the image to form.

Depending on my ideas for each work, I may expose the work again with other negatives or paint it with water colors.  Each unique work is process driven.  At each stage I decide how the work is communicating.