In the Studio
This is the first in a series of Solarplate Etchings of the Bloomfield Bridge in Pittsburgh. This bridge is the most distinctive feature of my landscape, which I can see from my window.
The print is inspired by Robert Thornton's Temple of Flora (1807) and Hokusai's 36 Views of Mount Fuji (1830). The former is a series of 33 lavish engravings of flowers, each set within a mysterious landscape. The flowers are almost always large and in the foreground. The overall effect is somewhat surreal. Contrary to traditional botanical portraits with blank backgrounds, the Temple of Flora sets each plant within an environment.
Hokusai produced his series when he was in his 70s. Mount Fuji has religious and cultural significance for the Japanese. You might say that the Bloomfield Bridge is my Mount Fuji, looming over my daily landscape. I've been drawn to Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints throughout my life. I love the simplified forms, flat shapes, and the use of water-based inks with their elegant gradations of color. Though I took a week-long workshop on the technique, I found it to be too laborious. As an alternative, I am using a Solarplate, printed in black, and then augmented with watercolor. I read recently that Mary Cassatt, who was also greatly influenced by Japanese prints, applied watercolor to her etchings to achieve a similar effect.