Nocturne is an original etching and relief print on aluminum-gilded mulberry paper in one color made from eighteen etched steel plates and a set of laser-engraved birch plywood blocks.
Instead of inking the wood block I used to print this piece, I dampened my gilded paper, placed it face-up on a freshly laser-engraved block, and ran it through an etching press. The press transferred the charred wood to the paper, leaving a physical texture as well as the color and smell of the burn on he back of the print.
More information on relief printing
An etching is a type of intaglio print we make from a plate whose imagery has been etched into its surface.
To create my plates:
- I applied a photosensitive film to each plate, placed a transparency (an opaque image on a translucent background) of my text on top, and exposed them to light.
- When I developed the plates, the film under the text washed away while the film exposed to light hardened into a blue coating.
- Next, I submerged the plates in a ferric chloride solution, which ate anything not covered by the film.
So when I removed the film, the text was bitten into the plates and the background was smooth.
To ink the plates:
- I spread ink over each plate and then wiped it with balls of tarlatan (starched cheesecloth) and paper. Wiping a plate pushes the ink into the plate’s crevices and cleans off its surface.
To print the plates:
- I placed the inked plates face-up on an etching press and then placed the print face down on the plates. I positioned backing paper and a set of wool blankets on top of the pile and then cranked it all through an etching press. The blankets pushed the paper into the plates’ crevices, transferring the ink as well as the plate textures to the paper.
Nocturne is one of two prints made from one piece of writing.
The text begins on the first print, Serenade (to the right), and continues across the entire surface of this print.
Accordingly, I named Serenade for a type of musical composition performed in the evening and I named Nocturne for another type of music performed late at night.
I see a serene, waltz-like rhythm in the calligraphic text that loops over the print. In addition, I associate its silvery reflections with moonlight and its lack of color with the reduced spectrum I see on my night walks.
Inspired by the forest of symbols in Baudelaire’s Correspondences, I suspended my prints from the ceiling in groups much like I would arrange dancers on a stage.
The gilded surfaces of the prints reflected each other and the ambient light in the exhibition space.
And the papers fluttered and danced with air currents in the space as well as the movements of passersby.
Thus both the prints and viewers engaged in a quiet call and response dance.
My hope was that taking a moment to play with art would spark a greater awareness in the participant’s surroundings—the sounds, the air currents, the smells, the colors, the light—which she or he would then carry beyond the exhibition space.