In 2019, I was selected as an artist in residence at Mojave National Preserve. I was pulled to capture the never ending vastness, solitude, and varying of this landscape. Being given the opportunity to spend time in the landscape provides focus, inspiration, and accessibility that forms a deeper connection and familiarity with a place. Mojave is a park less traveled and often overlooked by its neighbors Joshua Tree NP and Death Valley NP, as it is situated directly in the middle of the two. I feel a sense of responsibility to capture underrepresented landscapes and histories. The largest and densest Joshua Tree forest in the world is located in Mojave National Preserve. Most of the public has no idea of this fact. This is one of the reasons the work I created during my time in Mojave focused on creating portraits of the Joshua Trees that have been so overlooked. I cannot state the heaviness of the importance of documenting the landscape. In August 2020, a wildfire overcame the Joshua Tree forest, burning and destroying 43,273 acres, about 25% of the Joshua Trees. This deeply impacted both natural and cultural resources within the park. As temperatures rise due to climate change, invasive desert species are thriving, spreading, and hoarding resources from native plants. This creates a perfect environment for wildfires to spread rapidly. The landscape I photographed and documented in March 2019 no longer exists.
Looking at my desert images, I wanted to work with them in a new way. During the 2020 shelter in place, I did not have access to my studio and darkroom. At a time when I needed to continue to create work, I began making small cyanotype prints on paper of the desert landscape. Cyanotype is a historic contact printing process. Equal parts of two chemicals are mixed and brushed onto a surface; paper, fabric, wood, or even glass. The paper is exposed using UV light, in this case the sun, then placed in two water baths to develop and fix the image onto the paper. The chemicals and processes are environmentally safe, unlike most other photographic processes. The versatile, accessible, and experimental qualities of the cyanotype process allowed me to continue to create work from my apartment.
At the same time, I was invited by Annette Golaz to create work for her upcoming book, Cyanotype Toning: Using Botanicals to Tone Blueprints Naturally. Knowing this would elevate the work I had started, I began experimenting with botanicals. I deliberately selected colors that echoed the natural colors of the geologic formations in the desert. This work evolved one final time.
Incorporating textiles into my photographic work has been something I have wanted to explore. When I was very young I would often visit my aunt in Northern NJ. I was captivated by a handmade wall tapestry hanging above the stairway landing in her home. I would touch the tapestry when I walked up or down the stairs. Due to mysterious circumstances she passed away unexpectedly when I was a teenager. Sewing connects me to her. Having little knowledge about quilting, I felt the cyanotype process would translate into this medium. I scan my medium format negatives at a higher resolution and divide the image into equal tiles measuring 8” x 10”. Using traditional quilting techniques I sew the rectangles together as I would use a square pattern to create a wall hanging quilt. Memorial quilts are quilts made in remembrance of a loved one, often incorporating bits of their clothing with other fabrics. My quilts are alluding to this idea of memory. I am capturing a fleeting moment of time in the landscape through the quilts, and the moments are representative of a piece of the landscape. While not directly related to my aunt, the memory of her and our connection is deeply rooted in my quilts as well.