Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Seven Major Holidays

"Ash Sunday", Unique multi-gelatin-toned photogram, 2009

Created for the Hilo International Works on Paper Exhibition at the University of Hawaii, Fall 2009, The Seven Major Holidays consists of seven drawing-based photograms and seven poems designed to exist in a parallel dialogue. Inspired by a seven-year-old boy’s vision of a seven-minute-long solar eclipse, both the images and the poems trace this event through a series of seven stages or levels defined here as Reading Day, Ash Sunday, All Hallows Eve, Medicine Day, Birthday, Christmas, and Eclipse Day.

Photograms are photographs made without a camera by placing objects directly onto photographic paper and exposing it to light. A form of the photogram called Cliché Verre particularly appealed to 19th century French painters who found that with a drawing or painting made on glass or film, they could produce a hand-made photographic image in negative using the same process. In the 1960s, experimental film maker Stan Brakhage applied this technique to cinema, scratching, burning, painting, and even gluing mothwings onto the surface of a strip of film, essentially erasing the boundary between painting and cinema in order to achieve an altogether different kind of vision Brakhage termed “closed eye vision”.

The Seven Major Holidays picks up where Brakhage left off by combining the photogram with the Cliché Verre technique to produce photographic drawings that are at once painterly and poetic. Jeffrey Baykal Rollins has painstakingly created these photograms using multiple exposures through objects such as Christmas trees and ornaments, his young son’s hands and face, and many, many layers of minutely rendered, stained and bled ink drawings. Each of the seven photograms are unique black and white prints, toned multiple times with various-colored gelatin toners, and are accompanied by their corresponding poems.

A common element in all of the drawings are a variety of spirographic designs. Just as every spirograph is formed by a single line which ultimately returns back to the point where it began, these images follow the child’s passing through each of the seven stages to finally return with the elaborate pattern his journey has drawn. Likewise the poems document this seven-point spirographic unfurling into a highly structured form that can be read on many levels, such as the seven stages of the Apollo 7 space mission, the seven stages of psychological development, and the seven spheres of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesics, among (several) other things.

                               "Reading Day", Unique multi-gelatin-toned photogram, 2009