During an artist residency in the southeastern desert of California, I began experimenting with cyanotype; a cameraless contact printing process utilizing UV light to expose the image and water to develop and fix it. Without having access to a traditional darkroom I wanted to interact directly with the environment around me, utilizing the intense desert sun to expose onto hand coated paper and cotton fabric. The blue monochromatic images revealed the desert landscape's otherworldly features. I focused on the characteristics of the land that make it so diverse; isolated portraits of Joshua Trees and stacks of smooth rounded boulders looking as if they were placed in their formations by hand.
I appreciate the accessible, versatile, and interpretive qualities of this historic process. Inspired by Anna Atkins’s work documenting coastal botanical specimens, I wanted to continue this work expanding to other geologically diverse desert landscapes. When the 2020 shelter in place began, I needed to continue to create work even without access to my studio and darkroom. Working out of my home, I returned to the cyanotype process experimenting with fabric and quilting. The final evolution of this project formed when a fellow artist asked if I would contribute to a book she was publishing focusing on the process of toning cyanotypes with botanicals. Echoing the vibrant colors of early quilting, I’ve chosen to experiment with botanicals like madder root which produces a bright royal purple. The imagery depicted on the quilts was taken over the past few years in Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree National Park, and Red Rock Canyon State Park on medium format film. I scan the film and divide the digital image into equal sections. The digital negatives I have created are exposed as individual tiles on cyanotype soaked white cotton fabric. Finally, I use traditional quilting techniques to sew and finish the fabric into a wall hanging measuring approximately 36” x 29”. The cyanotype process lends itself to this desert imagery; pushing the viewer to focus on the abstracted textures, forms, and light while still recognizing the landscape definition.