WORKS ON PAPER:XEROX IMAGERY
The advantage of having made art for many years is that an artist reaches a point where it is possible to review work to see the path of discovery, the origin of themes and ideas, and solutions found to express them.
Creating this blog/website has provided me with the opportunity to do this. As I go through decades of work I am discovering that the term “works on paper” has proved to be a wonderful umbrella for many works which seem not to be easily categorized, including drawing in various formats. It also provides a way to categorize my experimentation with paper, not only as a surface to receive the marks but as a material with intrinsic characteristics worth investigating as a medium in itself. This avenue of thinking, begun in the 1970’s, has continued since then, playing a particularly important factor in THE THREADS PROJECT of the last decade.
In the previous post, “WORKS ON PAPER”, I gave examples and links to Pages describing various methods of creating imagery on paper such as frottage, embossing, and incising. Looking further back to the 1970’s and ’80’s, a period in which figurative work was prominent, it’s important to keep time and place in context. The common use of the internet, computers, scanners and printers, digital photography and other technological means available to enable self-sufficiency in managing image-making was still some time in the future.
In the 1970’s copy machines such as the ubiquitous Xerox were of course used for reproducing images and documents. As artists began to understand that we need not be limited to “traditional” methods of drawing, for example, many began to experiment with this machine as a new method of making art. While the black and white version was commonly available, color Xerox machines were not easily found outside of major cities. In fact, in the mid-Seventies I sent a series of drawings along with the twenty dollars that was required for the use of a color machine for an hour with an artist who was returning to New York City. He was to make as many copies as possible for my future experimentation with the resulting copies.
Unfortunately, both the twenty dollars, the drawings, and the artist were never heard from again.
The first image is a self-portrait from 1980, made on my first trip to Germany. I always traveled then with a notebook of drawing paper and a zipper bag of colored pencils.
SELF-PORTRAIT 1980 Colored pencil on paper
Some time later, after having framed this drawing, I placed the framed image face-down on the bed of a black and white Xerox machine. The motion of the sensor over the glass resulted in a blurred image to which I then added color with Prismacolor pencils.
These portraits were meant to capture more than just a physical presence. With each effort I tried to evoke other dimensions than what was first seen in the mirror as I wrapped my freshly-shampooed hair.
Copy machines offered the artist the opportunity to duplicate images which could be manipulated in many ways. “Generations” of images could be made by progressively copying a single image in series, one after the other. Other approaches included collage and using the reproduced page as a ground for drawing and as a method of creating some of the first self-published artist’s books. What Xerox technicians developed next, the fax machine, would of course, provide another opportunity for artists to break boundaries of making art by connecting them to one another, often outside of the proscribed boundaries of the gallery system. These machines became tools of creative expression but also tools of empowerment for both male and female artists.
(Also see the Page: Meeting The Dreams.)