Northeast Ohio artists Jacqueline Bon and Samantha Bias will discuss their experiences as residents at the Cleveland Print Room during the Artist Talk & Pop-Up Exhibition Dec. 17. They will explain work created during their residencies, as well as project inspiration.
Walk me through your residency at Cleveland Print Room. When did it start, and what kind of hours and experiences did it entail?
BIAS: This year I decided I was going to take more chances. In the past, confidence in myself and art has hindered me from taking chances, like applying for art shows or artist residencies. I had a fresh new medium interest in photography and alternative process after over 10 years of exclusively painting in watercolor. I had an idea for a project that involved old world photographic processes and needed the space and the knowledge to create the works that I intended on creating the summer of 2019. I applied, and to my delight I was accepted into the summer residency.
I was given a membership, a stipend and 24-hour access to the Cleveland Print Room facilities. There, I could use the space, equipment and darkroom at my disposal. Being a full-time art instructor for the city of Cleveland is a demanding job with rigid hours. Having anytime access gave me time before work, after work and weekend access, which is so important for the many working artists out there today such as myself.
I am a night owl and create best in the evenings. It was so freeing to be in a space dedicated to creating only. When I am at my home studio it can be distracting thinking about housework, not having enough space, etc. Typically, I would come to the Print Room after work, turn up my music and get creating. It was a freeing experience and one that I will always cherish.
BON: It was an eight-week residency that grew into a four-month journey. I was the fall resident artist, so technically it began in September. However, as soon as I was accepted into the program, I hit the ground running and I haven’t stopped since. I’ve been doing a lot of experimental processes, there was so much to learn. I’ve been working on new projects nearly every day since, sometimes a few hours of the day, sometimes entire evenings, and full days on weekends were an occasional treat. The beauty of 24/7 access to the Print Room is that it provides artists like myself who can’t take off work for an extended period of time the resources to reach for this dream that otherwise feels inaccessible.
Throughout the summer, I shot film to develop during my residency. I also created handmade paper at the Morgan Conservatory where I work by day in arts administration. Before the residency actually began, I took a polaroid emulsion lift workshop. This was a fun process where you basically take apart the polaroid, float it on the surface of water and adhere it to another surface. During the residency, I experimented with what I learned and transferred polaroids onto handmade paper. I also explored the darkroom, created cyanotypes on many different surfaces including handmade paper and fabric. I toned them using different substances including tea, coffee and red wine. I allowed myself to make mistakes and treated it like a laboratory where I allowed myself to experiment freely and absorb as much knowledge as I could. Looking back on it, it’s amazing how much I’ve grown throughout this process, I think a lot of the most valuable learning is gained through experience.
Were there any works you created during the residency that were particularly special to you? Why?
BIAS: One really special process that I learned happened by accident during my residency and became a profound turning point in my artistic career. During my residency I was working with chemistry that is UV light sensitive. It brought me to the idea of thinking about how we as artists can use our immediate natural resources instead of harmful chemicals that we often use in photo development. That thought drew me to plants and their comparable chemistry using UV light, similar to that of UV sensitive materials such as cyanotypes.
From there, I began to collect organic material, crush it up and use the juices from the plant as my photo sensitive chemistry. I was able to use it in the same fashion as cyanotype chemistry where I would paint the plant juice on paper and use photo positives to create photographic images also known as anthotypes. From there, I thought I would take it a step further.
Instead of crushing the plant material and using its photosensitive properties as photo chemistry, I would use the whole organic material – in this case leaves – to create photosynthetic prints using the chlorophyll in the leaf, creating a fully sustainable work of art. This process has been one of the most important projects I have ever worked on as an artist and my work regarding chlorophyll process has been recognized nationally and internationally.
BON: During this experience, I focused my attention on drawing inspiration from Cleveland, the region where I was born and raised. I think that when you familiarize yourself with a place it provides you with the advantage of being able to see things that were once not obvious on the surface. One of my favorite new images is from Whiskey Island. The sunset casted a pronounced pink haze onto the lighthouse walls. It was peculiar and romantic.
Why is Cleveland Print Room a good resource?
BIAS: Shari Wilkins’ story on how the Cleveland Print Room was founded is incredible. As darkrooms began closing in Cleveland, she collected materials that would otherwise be discarded and become a part of the past. Her foundation breathed life into a dying medium and ultimately created a staple of Cleveland’s art galleries, education and workshop offerings. They service youth, emerging artists and give a platform for local artists. I am so proud to have been a part of their first ever residency program and a participant in their gallery showings. They offer annual art shows and rotating workshops – I would highly recommend taking a class or showing your support in any and every way to help them continue to help flourish the extending art community in Cleveland.
BON: The only darkroom I had formerly worked in was a DIY bathroom turned darkroom over 10 years ago as a teenager. I was able to jump right back in by taking a workshop and it filled me with joy. I believe strongly in resources such as the Print Room that exist outside of college environments and allow individuals from different backgrounds and walks of life to pursue education, experiment freely and grow in their artistic practices. Shari is incredibly supportive and she has a strong vision; we’re a better city because of nonprofit organizations like Cleveland Print Room.
What do you plan to discuss during the talk?
BIAS: During the artist talk, I would like to keep it casual. Oftentimes artists talks can be stuffy, and I like to keep it more like a conversation. I am going to address my story behind the chlorophyll process portraits, my process and my plans for the new year. There will also be a Q&A for anything that I may not have covered during the talk.
BON: I have a background in journalism, and I love creative storytelling. I’m going to tell the stories behind some of my imagery and some of the insights I’ve learned from my photographic adventures.
Where else can we see your work?
BIAS: Instagram: @naïve_melody, website: biasedart.wix.com/website or Facebook: Biased Art. Permanent archival work at PhotoMuse in Kerala, India in 2020, with Cleveland Photo Fest, and many local galleries in Northeast Ohio. Check out my Facebook for current realizations.
BON: I post new work and experiments regularly to Instagram: @Jacqueline__Bon (with two underscores). Keep in touch for more to come in 2020.
The pop-up will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Cleveland Print Room, and the talk begins at 6:30.