I am intrigued by the Arctic and Antarctic explorations of the early 20th century: their daring, their hardships, their hubris. While doing research (otherwise known as wasting time with Google) I found many photographs of men on the ice, and I was struck by how abstract their bodies became – the strong light, bright whiteness of the snow and ice, and the limitations of the photography of the time combined to make their bodies distorted silhouettes. And yet, despite the distortions, they were distinctly readable as humans. This was very intriguing.

I also liked how the snow became a blank canvas for these figures. Without knowing the context of the story, they could be anyone, anywhere, plucked out of context.
A photo from the Newfoundland Sealing Disaster
(This particular photo is from the 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster.)

I decided to take a variety of these figures and make linoleum blocks from them. And then, rather than use the white canvas of the snow, I decided to create a whole series of ambiguous landscapes for them. Since these prints begin with images I found of Arctic explorers, and since they are experimental for me, I refer to them as my Explorations prints.

At first, I kept them in the context of a sort of imaginary Arctic, made by creating a series of monoprint backgrounds.
Exploration print

Then the space they inhabited became more abstract.
Exploration print

There is something going on, but what?
Exploration print

I experimented with different inks, line weights, and ways of making marks.
Exploration print

And I began putting them in spaces that weren’t at all arctic-like.
Exploration print

And back again, with more experiments in mark-making.
Exploration print

Now I’m taking this same concept and applying it to my prints about my pilgrimage last spring on the Via de la Plata in Spain. Except now, the figures are pilgrims, storks, saints’ day processions, sheep, and carved figures from the churches and other buildings along the way. And besides monoprints, the backgrounds are also photo transfers, solarplate etchings, and lithographs. Whoa! That’s crazy! Well, yes, in the best sort of way.

Stay tuned to see what comes out of it all…

Author: Melissa

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