Amid working with a few alternative spring break groups in the park, I was scheming how to continue the Artist-in-Residence (AiR) program in March and April. This was a bit overwhelming, but I knew that I wanted to continue AiR programming after the season of outdoor work slowed down.
I “branded” these workshops “Art in the Park” earlier when planning the first AiR’s programs in October, so I decided to stick with the name. The park chose Daniel Kukla, an photographer from New York, to spend a month in our park in the Tucson Mountains for the month of March 2017. With a previous NPS AiR program under his belt, I knew that he would help me (and the rest of the park!) learn from his experiences to develop the AiR program at Saguaro. Like the previous artist, he was an incredible joy to work with!
Daniel is interested in ecology, botany, and invasive species, so we used these interests to guide his workshops. Daniel led two workshops that lied at the intersection of invasive species in our park and camera-less photo techniques. “How does this work?!” you might ask. I questioned the same thing, but soon found his ideas to be genius.
Daniel spent some time with the ecologist in the park gathering some invasive species and learning about their effects on the landscape. He brought these specimens to the workshop, where he gave presentations on the historical use of cyanotypes to record plant life.
A cyanotype is an affordable and camera-less technique used to create an image, and the original way that blueprints were produced. The process takes advantage of the light-sensitive properties of two chemicals, ammonium iron citrate and potassium ferricyanide, to create a shadow where an object is placed on the surface to be exposed. This surface most commonly is paper, but can be any porous surface that the liquid chemicals can soak into.
For this workshop, we used photo paper that was already treated with the chemicals and dried, so attendees just placed the plants on paper as they wished, then we exposed the paper to light under a sheet of glass. The glass kept the plant pieces in place during our windy Sonoran desert spring!
Above is the photo paper being exposed to UV light outdoors during the workshop. My personal creation is made from the roots of Buffelgrass, an infamous, invasive and fire-spreading plant found in both districts of the park.
Daniel also soaked some leftover pieces of fabric in the light-sensitive chemicals.
One of the workshop’s attendees even got creative and cut up pieces of paper to experiment with making crisp lines! The image that she created is on the right in the photo below. We experimented with times of exposure, and we found that clouds in the sky made a big difference. The images with fuzzy lines were exposed during a time that clouds were passing through.
After the workshops were completed, Daniel went on his way to work back in the Big Apple. I began planning for the next AiR, who lived in the park during the month of April. More on that soon!
Thanks, Daniel, for sharing your craft with NPS and the Tucson community! See you soon!