The emotional pull of implied water in my work is the underpinning of my series Confluence. Giving sustenance to every ecosystem and civilization, without water, life as we know it would not exist. In religion and art water is often associated with the ability to wash away our sins and start anew and symbolizes balance, peacefulness, and rebirth. Perhaps our strong attraction to water is due to our own bodies being 70 percent fluid.
A confluence occurs when two or more flowing bodies of water join to form a single channel. It is a metaphor for the blending of the two historic practices used to create my images. Gyotaku, a form of nature printing, uses the subjects as printing plates. Often created with squid or sumi ink and washi paper the prints provided a way for Japanese fisherman in the mid 1800’s to record and memorialize their catch and to advertise at market. Anna Adkins, a biologist from England, used cyanotypes as photographic illustrations to record algae and fauna. She is the first known female photographer and her life-like photograms published in 1841 was the first book illustrated with photographic images. Original Japanese gyotaku and Adkins’ cyanotypes were once considered scientific visual evidence but are now highly collectible art.
My subjects, aquatic animals have been themes in art for 1,4000 years and are found as recurring motifs in primitive art as well as in most ancient civilizations. Considered a symbol of the origin of life and fertility; fish, frogs and snakes were ascribed sacred meanings when they appeared in visual art. Humankind’s fascination with fish and water is universal and primordial.
The gyotaku prints in my series are figurative in nature but when combined with cyanotypes, the images become untethered. Intrinsically experimental, wet cyanotypes are unpredictable, and the finished images are results of both practice, persistence, and happy accidents. Building on prior Environmental Memento Mori themes of my work, Confluences honors my subjects whose deterioration of habitat makes their recognition vital and poignant.