#StoryBehindtheArt - Cyanotypes on Paper - Julie Brown Neu

#StoryBehindtheArt – Cyanotypes on Paper

cyanotype of two maple leaves

Though I am primarily a fiber artist, I experimented with cyanotypes on paper at the Wet Cyanotypes workshop I took with Lesley Riley over the summer at the Hudson River Valley Fiber Arts Workshops. As you can see, I am a huge fan of ferns because I am a child of the woods. There are some people who like wide, open spaces with big skies or densely constructed urban settings. I am not one of them, I love the protective canopy, soft light and lush quiet of the deep woods. I love moss on trees, carpets of fallen leaves, and the sounds of water tripping over rocks in a stream and that’s why I leaned toward ferns as a subject matter. I used them as the subjects of some of my first cyanotype experiments, placing the fronds and drizzling them with citric acid or other additives just to see the effect.

Some of these fronds came from my own natural garden at home, but others I was lucky to find in abundance at the inn. The maple leaves were also ones that I brought from home and I believe that this piece was the very first cyanotype that I made, adding nothing but water. I named the work “Sweet Pair” because, though a botanist will likely correct me, I think the leaves came from a sugar maple in my yard. I live in the mountains of Western Massachusetts, which is prime maple syrup country. Plastic tubes run through the woods on farms near my house, waiting for the brief window of time in the very early spring when the sap is running and sugaring can begin. However, this pair doesn’t only represent lovely sweetness, but serves as a warning as well. Sugaring is getting harder and harder in Massachusetts as climate change impacts the weather conditions and narrows that brief window of time when the days and nights are the perfect temperatures for sap.

Of those above, only the Queen Anne’s Lace prints were ones I made at home after the workshop. I made these as part of an experiment with time. I laid out rows of nearly identical prints and exposed them outside for different lengths of time to see if it made a difference in my backyard cyanotype studio (aka an old door on saw horses outside my studio door). Queen Anne’s Lace is something I have in abundance because I let it grow with abandon. I know that many people consider it a weed, but it too has great nostalgic meaning for me. I grew up on a Virginia farm, surrounded by Queen Anne’s Lace. Almost every day, I would walk along the road from my house down to my grandparents’ house or to the barns, running my fingers through the hundreds of Queen Anne’s Lace flowers growing in the fence row. They represent summers of freedom to wander the family farm that no longer exists.

All of these prints are available in the shop if you want your own piece of the Massachusetts woods to hang in your home.

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