As of today, hopefully Wednesday's will be the day I consistently blog about my thesis work. Now that school has begun, a schedule is emerging from the obligations of college life. Making food, staying awake in class, staying fit, and making money are the recurring events in my schedule thus far, and my bloodstream is beginning to run with coffee, water and a daily glass of wine (I take after my mother). In spare time, it is difficult to want to read a book about my thesis, even though I know I will enjoy it. At this point, I'm debating taking a train ride to nowhere just to force myself to read.
I have discovered that planning out exactly what I will do each week helps me achieve my goal, therefore I present to you the next two weeks of thesis work.
Week 1: I have recently discovered that bones contain grease, which makes them smell (thanks bone-lust.blogspot.com) and I need to soak my bones in a water and dishsoap mixture to remove this smell. The process of degreasing may take multiple months depending on how much fat and grease is in the bones. Hopefully, being exposed to the elements this summer will have removed a lot of the grease on my specimens, but I'm going to start the process on most of my bones tonight. If I have time after doing other school work, I will read The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, which was recommended by Elaine Rutherford.
Week 2: Luckily, I have some bone chips which will be perfect for experimentation and probably wont take very long to degrease, so next week I will be playing with cyanotyping and indigo dying on the bones. Scott Murphy bought an indigo kit over the summer and there are leftovers for use on the smaller bones to see what patterns and colors emerge.
Questions being addressed through next weeks exploration are:
1) How long does it take to for bone cyanotypes to expose under UV light?
2) How long does it take for the unexposed chemical to rinse out of bones?
3) How clear of an image can be achieved on bones using the cyanotype method?
4) Does indigo dying work on bones?
5) If it works, does presoaking the bone in water help the dye soak in?
6) What colors and patterns can be achieved through dying the bones multiple times.
I am excited to see how both chemical processes work on such a strange material and am hopeful for success, but am also prepared for failure. In the words of Brother David Paul "the restrictions create the most successful artwork," so lets find some restrictions and see what can be created.
Peace and Blue,
No Darkroom, No Problem
I have been threatening my parents that our basement bathroom would become a darkroom since my high school days, i'm glad it finally happened. Red light on, I watched film develop in front of my eyes and felt victorious. The photos taken in Cedar Rapids, Okaboji, and NakNek all feel like a place, even if it is not exactly clear what they are. I am proud with this step taken in my thesis, however should probably keep taking more photos.
Peace and Blue,
Another Day, Another Fillet
On July 30th, I made it to the lower 48 with all fingers attached, no resemblance of normal sleep schedule, and a pocket full of friends who make NakNek the special place it is. I forgot the peaceful delirium which comes over me when the only responsibilities I have are to wake up, go to work, and do my job well.
In the Pre and Post-Season, I took photos of mud flats, abandoned boats, the view from a sand dune I fell in love on in 2015, and many more places of strength. The wetlands and beaches were scoured for bones by my squad of adventurers. Sadly, only two leg bones were found despite a fisherman telling us where a whale skeleton was (6 miles was a little far to walk). The short amount of time I had to explore and do my physical work was aided by good friends and 24 hour daylight.
There were some places I couldn't return to because the memories were too strong to face. An abandoned house, a certain stretch of beach that held so much emotion, to return to them would spoil the angst and beauty they have in our heads and the poems written about them. Everything is amplified in Alaska, willingly or not, you rise higher and fall harder in a short period of time due to the stress and simplicity of life.
There is Wifi at Leader Creek, however it is more frustrating than useful or fun, so when not adventuring, card games, writing, and reading were the best ways to spend time. I brought Rebecca Solnit's, books "A Field Guide to Getting Lost" and "Wanderlust" along with "The Essential Rumi" to help me learn and process my emotions and articulate what I want to show through my photographs.
While reading "A Field Guide to Getting Lost", I discovered part of why I and many others are drawn to spend their summers laboring in Middle of Nowhere, Alaska. On page 16, Solnit states, "For [Virginia] Woolf, getting lost was not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are."
We are not physically lost while in NakNek, I posted a map in my previous blog post, you can 'check in' at the bars in town on your phone, but mentally where are you? Who are you? Nobody knows unless you came up with a friend or partner.
One of my good friends told me at the end of the season he is 100% sober in the real world, he just graduated to become a youth minister and has had a girlfriend for three years. He feels Alaska is the only place he will not be judged or expected to fit a mold. We can become anybody and nobody and everybody. We are allowed to be lost.
Getting the Nak(nek) of Things
The main focus of my thesis will occur here in the beautiful town of Naknek, Alaska, or at least 3 miles down the road from it at Leader Creek Fisheries. Last year was my first year working Quality Assurance during Sockeye Salmon season and this year I have returned, pinhole camera in hand, attempting to record the massive amount of love and strength I gained from this place. One of my best friends who I met up here told me "You're the most you when you're in Naknek" and she's right.
I have been struggling capturing the emotion of a place using only photos of the landscape, but will spend the summer exploring different techniques and hopefully getting the results I need. If I've learned anything, it is that I need to live with a project to make it the best it can be.
Internet is spotty up here so probably expect another update in August.
Peace and Blue,
Birds of a Feather
Lakeside Laboratory is located in Okaboji, Iowa and is where my father has taught ecology since before I was born. I remember running through the wild green brush and the long grasses of the prairie fondly. It made sense to come to Lakeside when contemplating places for a project on places which make me feel strong.
In recent years, Lakeside has started an artist in residence program and in my time here I was able to speak to the artists currently working in the studio space, Joseph Mougel and Cynthia Brinich-Langlois. Both teach at University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and remind me of Scott Murphy, my thesis adviser. Joseph loves a good problem to solve and spent the morning with me drawing up concepts on how to expose the bones with pinhole cameras. Cynthia is a printmaker by nature and also works with cyanotype process. It felt a little like fate that a master film photographer and a wonderful printer were the artists at Lakeside in the time I visited and were able to help me troubleshoot some of the problems I had been having with my pinhole camera.
It also is interesting how artists approach similar themes such as human impact on the land or vice versa. By the time I left their studio, I had a long list of artists who also work with similar themes as we do. It was a joy to meet inspired and down to earth artists who spend their life clearing their mind with old fashioned techniques.
Peace and Blue,
Life through a Pinhole
Fun Fact about Lexi #1, I hate pinhole photography. When my Dad found out I was using a pinhole camera for my thesis, he laughed at me. I should have listened because damn, I hate taking pinhole images. But, the result is worth it.
If I hate the process so much, why did I decide to go pinhole? My thesis revolves around feelings and emotions which places can give us. While I could use a digital camera and print crystal clear images onto a transparency, I want to use a format which captures more than just a perfect replication, but the emotion behind a place too.
Fun Fact about Lexi #2, I don't shoot landscapes often, and that seems to be the main subject matter of the thesis. Apparently I decided to torture myself with this project. Luckily, the photos have turned out crisp and with beautiful contrast thus far.
With that, I am off to Lakeside Laboratory where I will be photographing my childhood summer play place and meet with artists in residence who are using large format cameras and cyanotype printing.
Peace and Blue,
Bones, Bones, Dem Dry Bones
How many people can say that their family would freeze their butts off to bury bones in the middle of the woods for their daughter's art thesis. I now know that my family would. Thanks to Tom Kroll and the Saint John's Outdoor University, I have been given permission to create a small graveyard of cow and deer bones on the arboretum's rolling acres of land. This was step one in my thesis plan of action.
Once school ended, I went out to dig up some of the bones and hopefully do some cyanotype tests on them. Unfortunately, the tests never occurred. By burying the bones I was hopeful all the meat and membranous skin would be eaten off by bugs and maggots.The maggots were present, and there were plenty of bugs, but everything was soggy, gross and a little bit moldy. So I decided to give the bones some more time and exposed them to open air taking two bones to try another method of cleaning.
I tried to simmer and soak these bones in hydrogen peroxide, but there was still a bit too much tissue to clean the bones in this manner. Being stubborn, I refused to accept this until I spent a week attempting to clean the bones and finally accepted defeat.
Until August, the bones will decay in the summer sun, fingers crossed when I return to the graveyard they will be cleaner than last time.
Peace and Blue,
The 2015-2016 school year has come to a close leaving the town of St. Joseph, MN empty minus local townies and a handful of students who remain here to work for the school. For the month of May I will be living in this town, recovering from the school year, and researching. The first leg of my research is technical work, the second is mental exploration, to create an intriguing and stimulating thesis which fully explores the concept of strength through location.
Also, this is my first blog post. Am I allowed to talk to you guys? To be honest, this last week has been rough. Finals took a lot of energy out of me and the thought of writing a blog post is making me flash back to he series of papers I wrote in the hopes that I would pass junior year. Don't worry, I did, but it honestly came as a surprise.
My research is just beginning, I started the week getting my act together and waking up before 10 am then putting together a collection of readings on location and how other people are able to connect with places, which will help me develop my concept further. I also went to Target and bought mass quantities of sticky notes and a new notebook so I can label and record everything I do.
Hopefully, the St. Joseph Meat Market will contact me tomorrow with more cow bones so I can work on cleaning them and start some prototypes of my final project as well as do some of the technical research I need to finish by the end of the month.
Peace and Blue,
This blog will follow my life and art process.