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cyclone / there is no time but the light remains 5

Jemez Springs light, ferric compounds, natural and synthetic pigments, rainwater, snowmelt, Jemez hot springs water, salt, and acrylic medium on paper

6 x 18”

2020

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Each image in this series is

a light-holder

a time-teller

a shadow-keeper

a record of & homage to transformation.

These paintings use the cyanotype process. The primary pigment in the cyanotype process is Prussian Blue, which is made of prussic acid. Prussic acid is also part of the chemical makeup of Zyklon B, the lethal gas used to kill prisoners in Nazi death camps. “Zyklon” translates to “cyclone”; the “B” stands for Blausaure, “blue acid,” synonymous with prussic acid. Some of the death camp bunkers bear traces of the same arrestingly vibrant blue that characterizes cyanotypes.

All four of my grandparents survived death and labor camps during the Holocaust. Both of my grandmothers, Rosalie and Olga, survived Auschwitz. These paintings are a record of ongoing intergenerational trauma and grief. They are also tokens of transformation, records of attempts to shift that trauma. They are each, in this way, a prayer, a trace, an homage, an elegy.

The series began at a residency in the mountains of northern New Mexico, where I was helplessly and utterly enchanted by the light. This was light unlike any I had previously known, light that articulated the world precisely and without omission, as if enunciating for a child learning a new language. I was that child, learning the language of the place, falling in love with its forceful and graceful presence. The light changed everything it touched, instantaneously and forever, including me.

Cyanotypes are made via a photographic process that relies upon sunlight. The sun was my primary collaborator on this project.

I also collaborated with the varied animacies — pigments, stones, wings, plants, branches — collected during my walks in the canyon.

The sun and the land and the pigment and the memory of all of these things, alongside my own memory, made these images.

They are barely-stilled transitions. Like light, they feel like they might shift at any moment.

We are in an urgent socio-political-ecological moment — there is no time, we are out of time. And yet, the light remains. And we must take the time to be changed by the light.

We must allow light — that transitional phenomena that alters everything it touches — to expand and contract within and around us. In the words of lifelong activist Grace Lee Boggs, “These are the times to grow our souls. Each of us is called upon to embrace the conviction that despite the powers and principalities bent on commodifying all our human relationships, we have the power within us to create the world anew.” Boggs defines “soul” as “a belief in the individual’s power to make moral choices.”

”there is no time but the light remains” is a line from Gillian Conoley’s poem “Schools of Thought.”

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