And still the flowers bloom

And still the flowers bloom – 3D monoprint & collagraph, 2020; Akua intaglio on Arches 88; 20″x20″x20″

2020 has been the most difficult year most of us have lived. In just six months, we’ve relived experiences that had played out before, but never all at once: A rocket launch, protests over police brutality and racism, a presidential impeachment, a deep recession. These resulted from the corona virus pandemic, bringing out the worst and best of us, challenging us to discover how to “virtualize” friendship and family connections. 

Amidst all this, birds nest, insects pollinate, tides ebb and flow, and our Princess of the Night cactus bloomed. Nature carries on vigorously, gloriously, proving the world still has gifts of wonder for us if humanity will just pay attention. 

This year’s Morean Arts Center member show theme is 20×20, and it presented an opportunity for me to ponder the earth, our place in it, and the condition of hope. The 20×20 theme gave me the idea of building an icosahedron, a 20-face polyhedron. On the outside, a monoprint showcasing the earth that made us. On the inside, a collagraph depicting major events of the year (so far), humanity reckoning with itself. We are caught inside, looking out windows at all we can no longer engage with. (The windows also allow a view to the interior images.)

The piece is printed flat and double-sided on Arches 88 paper. I created two plates cut from a template consisting of 20 triangles: 10 side-by-side through the center, with 5 triangles along the top and 5 along the bottom. Once printed they were joined along the ends and top and bottom triangles.

Design and production involved two prototypes and tests of five different adhesives to find the one that would seam all those triangles (Loctite Stik ‘n Seal won the trial). My etching press is 30″x60″, and I had to split the image into two panels per side to fit the bed which created another seam in addition to the side, so I built each hemisphere separately and then joined them, using a lot of makeshift armatures to prop up each side.

Duplex printing proved challenging to register, too. The plates are a bit floppy, and were quite obstinate when flipping them on top of the paper to register on the second side. I can see why master printers have assistants!

Some of the steps are shown in the following photos.

Preparing matte board to inscribe
Printing two interior panels of “And still the flowers bloom”
View from the outside through the “windows” to the collagraph images on the inside
Interior collagraph print – pre-construction
Exterior print — pre-construction