I'm excited to share my most recently finished piece - "Window of Opportunity", Irving Street - and to share a glimpse into the process for one of my mixed media sculptures!
The wonderful Cindy Henry is responsible in many ways for this piece. In a grander sense, I am who I am thanks to her encouragement many years ago to consider teaching art, and on a more recent level, her interview is the origin of the Irving Street piece. When I first began to consider bringing others' experiences into my work, Ms. Henry mentioned that she had lived in downtown Albany.
The interview is an interesting conversation about her experience living on Irving Street for a summer in the home of one of her own former art teachers. We chat about the visual characteristics of the home as well as its emotional and nostalgic qualities. The timing of her experience there added a lot of meaning; she describes the summer after finishing college as a freer time when the world was opening up and anything was possible - "a window into the future."
I draw the residence from several angles, and take photos while there. Drawing a place in person gives a better sense of the building in its surroundings - in this case, packed in with several other historic brownstones in urban Albany near Center Square and the Plaza.
Several more drawings on tracing paper are combined to create a plan for etching an aluminum printmaking plate. I coat it in an acid-resist and etch the lines, then stop out several layers of open-bite etching for aquatint - fellow intaglio printmakers can share my excitement in being able to aquatint without rosin or a hot plate! I pull an artist's proof on paper before moving on.
After printing the image on linen, I add layers of flat, transparent color using ink rolled directly on the press bed with paper stencils. Irving had many passes through the press to build up the atmospheric light and richness of the brick. The colors I choose come from recollections and descriptions by residents, or from my observations in seeing the exterior - in this case, both. The reds are a reference to the brick, the blue is a scrap of reflected sky, and the hint of green is actually a nod to an odd little plant that Cindy mentioned killing during her summer there... I felt the color would make a nice addition, and it seemed like an amusing detail to have remembered for so long.
Though the printing is done, the process is not yet finished. I plan and build a stretcher frame, then add tilted planes of wood to break up and physically manipulate the dimension of the surface. Cutting up the print is by far the most terrifying part of the process. After adding a few pieces of plexiglass and leaving the piece alone for a few days, I find a tiny sketch from right after our interview - a single floating window frame.
Many thanks again to Cindy Henry for sharing her time in an interview, and to the Decentralization Regrant Program of the NYS Council on the Arts, without which this project would not be possible. I am still looking for one last Albany County resident or former resident - if you have lived in the former South Mall neighborhood, or in Guilderland, Latham, or Colonie, please reach out!
Artist. Art Teacher. Smallbany Gallery.
© Katherine Chwazik 2020, All Rights Reserved