blue to black

Two summers ago, my family and I visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California. Transfixed, while at the same time swept away in awe, I found this a place of unparalleled beauty: panoramic views of the Pacific, wide-open concrete spaces, and meticulously-kept exhibits. My favorite section of the aquarium belonged to the jellyfish, a fantastic array of species that danced and tangled, bloomed and unbloomed in their startling-blue tanks. Later, when I went back through photos I had taken, I noticed how the blue background of the tank lent the perfect contrast, amplifying the jellyfish’s vivid details, and how when I switched the photo to black and white, the jellyfish became the center of an other-worldly, strangely selective kind of attention. In black and white, the jellyfish began to harbor secrets, to tell only what they wanted to tell, show only what they wanted to show. Parts of them naturally became part of the dark and other parts shone luminous and wild, entirely dominant of their existence.

Lately I have thought a lot about exhibition and how we open ourselves to others, how we tell our stories, how we unfold the rawness of our secrets with complete abandonment and full vulnerability. On social media it is, when felt to be artificially expressed, called performativity. But what is it called when in captivity? What are the stories of those kept under a bright light for the pleasure of onlookers? What experience is the consciousness of those forced on display so that we may tell a story about them? What are the stories of those kept in the dark? I think about the stories inside of me and how much I wish to bring them to light, to paper, to exhibition. But lately I feel my body, my head, my heart sucked deep underwater, twilight zone to midnight zone. My ambitions, my stories, my confessions are bright whispers in captivity. And it is here that I must listen more intently, respectfully, more lovingly than ever I would if given the broad facts of daylight.

This week I am continuing to learn and experiment with the basics of cyanotype, a UV light-dependent photographic printing process that is at the same time simple and vast in technique, style, and subject. Sun Art paper is a great place to start and has helped me gain a partial though definitive grasp on how sunlight and variable densities, textures, and shapes interact with one another. 

Something which thrills me about photo processing is the gamble: you can never be sure what you’re going to get. You can never be sure what the image is going to say to you and what it will keep to itself. There is a shared silence, and it is here where love dances back and forth, blooms and unblooms; it is here where we must listen, eyes closed and hearts unfolded, to whispers shining out of the dark. 

Here, we dominate our existence, our story.

silhouettes in space

This week I have listened to “Rupture” by The Cranberries I don’t know how many times. A lot! I often do that - listen to a song over and over and over as some way to understand every particle of it. Today I am working on a silhouette painting part of an ongoing series I’ve loosely titled, “blank portraits”. I never know how long a series will go on, how long an obsession will go on, how long a need a desire a love a pain an expression will go on—but like a song I love so much, I listen to it again and again, let it play me, until I am finished with it or it is finished with me. Until there is no other way to understand it. Until it becomes part of the space and work around me and within me, returning to haunt me, silent as a shadow, as and when it pleases. Then, as all wonderful things do with time, it does something funny: it changes. And I love it wholly anew.

painting for a friend

It is my greatest pleasure to make things for people. When my grandmother first taught me to crochet, I made friendship bracelets adorned with buttons and charms for all my friends at school. Today, I am working on a painting for my friend, Jenni. We share January birthdays and recently celebrated with friends at her house. Delicious foods and colorful, animated company - so much fun! Jenni is one of the truest and kindest people I’ve had the privilege of knowing. Who brings you homemade birthday dessert late at night or salmon soup when you’re sick? Who will encourage your health and happiness and enjoy to see you thrive in this life? I am so lucky to have such a wonderful friend as her. For this painting I used black and gold ink, gouache, and paper (I dyed blue flowers with watered down gouache). I sewed the flowers to the watercolor paper with sequins and beads.