Over the last two days, I hung the Mother Daughter Show II, at the Boiler Room in Port Townsend, Washington. It will be up for the month of December.
This time it is the joint work my mother and I did in the 1980s. She did etchings to go with nine of my poems. The tenth poem was written for an etching she had already done. I asked my mother if she would do this project with me and she replied, "Only if the poems rhyme. None of that free verse stuff."
I worked on the poems, I think with my mother's etching style in mind. She used a zinc plate, with a tar solution on it. She would do a drawing in the tar, usually with a dental tool. The plate was placed in acid, which would etch where the tar had been scraped away. She would etch the plate multiple times, which gave different depths to the etched lines.
When the plate was finished, she would remove the tar and run an artist's proof. She would heat the plate on a metal hot plate. She would ink it and then gently wipe the ink off until there was a very thin layer on the unetched parts of the plate. This had to be done delicately, so that the ink was not wiped out of the etching lines. She would place the plate on the press, place a piece of wet paper gently over the plate, lower the thick pile of wool pads over the paper and run the press. After the plate had gone through, the paper was peeled up and there was an etching, with the edges of the plate pressed into the paper.
Sometimes she was not satisfied and would return to the tar and change the etching. Sometimes she ran multiple proofs until she had the color right. Then she would run an edition. The print and poems are editions of fifty. Each etching is signed and numbered: 1/50, 2/50, 3/50, and so forth. We had the poems printed first, on a lead type press, and then my mother ran the etchings. We had a show in the late 1980s in Alexandria, Virginia.
My mother died in 2000. My father died in 2013. My mother was a prolific artist, so trying to deal with the estate felt insane. I put the art in a storage unit. When I had The Mother Daughter Show in July, it felt like a remembrance of my mother. And anyhow, I have to do something with the art in that storage unit, don't I?
I find the etchings easier to show and sell then the watercolors. I want to clutch each watercolor, but eventually I will start to let go of them. I have the etching plates, too, because my mother said she was terrible at finishing editions. I have the box of poems printed on the lead press and the guides for running the edition. I do not have the press. My sister took it to California and it disappeared. That is ok, because there are presses in Port Townsend. There is a big art community, which is part of why my parents moved to this area in 1996. Art, music, gardens and boats.
My mother did many small fantasy etchings, flying elephants, fairies, a mermaid, a merman. The poems I sent her were almost all about animals. I wrote Eating Water Hyacinths and my mother did a charming etching of two manatees. She looked in various books to see what manatees looked like and then drew them. I wrote a blue crab poem and we bought a live crab. I photographed her drawing the crab, which was skittering around unhappily on the dining room floor. I enjoyed the constraint of rhymes. It made it easier to write the poems, though I am not sure why.
I have six of the series hanging in the show. I don't currently have the other four framed. The Gallery Walk is this Saturday, tomorrow. I hope that people will come and perhaps we will sell one. We are also going to show the Panda Minimum, outside. The Panda Minimum is a mountain bike camping trailer, a bit like a teardrop trailer, designed and built by a local friend. We will have it outside the Boiler Room. I've already told the friend that I think the Panda will steal all the thunder and the art on the wall will be ignored, but ah, well. I have a third show scheduled, for June and July, at another venue. It is easier to do shows of my mother's artwork than my own, because I think she was so good.