As an encaustic artist and photographer, I could not have imagined I would have the opportunity to purchase 5 boxes of glass negatives from the turn of the last century.
As I opened some of the wooden boxes, some of the yellowing paper from the handmade folders that held the negatives disintegrated in my hands. Other folders are made of cardboard. All are marked with writing and some with red labels. Many negatives are stored in boxes with the name “Kodak” on the top of the boxes. Some are more interesting than others. Moisture and time has affected many of the images. The emulsion on edges of the negatives have fused together causing a multitude of patterns on the glass.
It became clear to me: I found the works of a photographer, whose name I might never know, from 1899. This collection of photographs is a time capsule. I felt a tremendous responsibility towards the photographer, to represent the imagery they captured with integrity. The children in the photographs are particularly interesting. Their clothes, toys and the way they are dressed are truly from a forgotten era and yet it was a time of flux, a time of many important changes, the discovery of electricity and telephones …..I found one photograph of a phone on a wall!
The process of turning these photographs into a joint artwork has been intricate and wonderful, using a wax layering process. Layering has meaning in both encaustics methodology and in the conceptual aspects of time and history. Beyond the images are underlying narratives I’d like to express through the artworks. Some of the photographs in particular have a mystical, shadowy and deeper resonance that can be told by the picture; and I reduced light and detail in parts through layering in the wax process. I added subtle yet dark silhouettes in places, changing the mood and mystery of the images and adding depth and a personal comment of my own. At times I am quite brutal in the obliteration of shapes that interfere with the ultimate clarity of the message.
I have no doubt that the photographer had no idea one day their work would be the source of such inspiration and pleasure in the hands of another artist.
Materials: Encaustics and mixed media on wood