a Thickening Fear of Air ∙ Katharine DeLamater ∙ Katharinelarkdelamater.com
For this body of visual and written work, I began collecting lists of words commonly used to describe caves: hollow, bottomless, yawning pit... I gathered words from spelunking guides, as well as my personal observations about tenuous relationships. Language once used to describe the thrill of underground adventure can easily be transformed to describe grief and longing, as well as the quiet comfort of solitude.
The photographic images and drawings of cave expeditions, combined with the dramatic narratives of their retellings, created a rich visual world that inspired me to work more experimentally with my hand papermaking and letterpress printing practices. Early in this project, I wrote that ‘I simply like the way that I think when I think about caves’. In retrospect, I was referencing the sense of wonder and curiosity that ‘cave-thinking’ brought into my practice, both technically and conceptually.
I developed a kinship with the curious spelunker entering a cave’s unknown: the cave’s darkness, risk, and allure a worthwhile expedition. Spelunkers’ write of the potential threats and precautions, alongside tales of routes better left unexplored.
As I began this body of work, I became a spelunker of sorts. I work closely with a bag of reference images, childhood photographs in a zip-lock bag. I spread photographs on the kitchen table like the fragments of a map, with the hope that I might piece together an understanding of the lives before mine. Learning about my family, the mystical world of caves, they are both research—acts of unearthing.
The neutrality of research and its ‘facts’ leave little room left for the complexities of sentimentality; in my work, I incorporate both. The underground, underworld, underbelly feels like a truer kernel of existence than the life lived above— the notion of a ‘core’ being the central truth of a matter. There is a paradox in this contrast, at once knowing nothing and everything. Metaphorical references to caves and the underworld are abundant in conversational expressions: light at the end of the tunnel, unearth, get to the bottom of something—all references to the belief that there is a truth in sight, if only the path to it can be navigated unscathed.
Handmade paper monoprints (flax, abaca, dyed cotton)
Variable edition of 14
After Light is a variable edition of handmade paper monoprints made using a base blend of flax and abaca fibers with dyed short cotton pulp in a deckle box. The sheets were formed using the ‘magic table cloth’ technique in which a sheet of plastic drop cloth is laid across the deckle box surface and walls, filled with pulp and water, and then pulled out from beneath, allowing the pulp slurry to drain. The gestural movement of the sheet captures the motion of the slurry as the drop cloth is removed. The hazy, slate-colored tones washed across these sheets invokes the natural desire to assign representational names to ambiguous forms, like cloud-watching, shadow puppetry, and other forms of imaginative narration. While I resist specifying what the forms could be, I see these pieces as a complement to the more constructive, narrative reliant elements in my body of work. Rather than attempt to lead the viewer to a specific conclusion, these works are an offering to the viewer to imagine, explore, and reflect on their personal interpretation of the given forms.
Handmade paper paintings with watermarks and stenciling techniques.
Variable edition and unique works
2019 – 2020
These works experiment with the different approaches to creating narratives from the same three stencils: an outstretched arm, a small child-like figure, and an abstracted house form. While the silhouettes remain constant, the shifting layouts and combinations of imagery build a foggy, dream-like world.
Artists’ book with handmade and Japanese papers, printed from metal type, with photopolymer and pressure printing.
Edition of 20 with two artist’s proofs
In Ritual Mining, the handmade paper folios, translucent and slick, rattle with each page turn like footsteps on placid earth. As the viewer progresses through the book, the paper in each section becomes increasingly dark. Some sections are sewn shut, which is reminiscent of reaching a dead end in a winding cave. Like stalagmites and stalactites, the world in Ritual Mining grows from both the bottom and the top. The shadowed forms of my great grandmother’s double wedding ring quilt-top are layered with textile pressure prints and silhouettes. These images cast shadows of familiar forms across the pages, while maintaining a ghost-like fog. To reveal the full image, the viewer must try to access the inside of the French fold folios, which mirror the action of opening a map and encourage the viewer to peer beyond the traditional recto and verso.
Handmade paper paintings with poem printed from metal type housed in a brass gutter drop spine binding designed by the artist.
Variable edition of 4 with one artist’s proof
In Seven Observations, sheets of handmade unfurl as the viewer opens the box. In absence of an audience, the poems are hidden within the enclosure, like the other-worldly cave formations that exist unseen until illuminated by lamplight. The seven-stanza poem is printed on handmade abaca papers that have been tinted using pigment washes and viscous overbeaten cotton fiber applied with formation aid. The paper of this book requires close examination, its ethereal surface resembles etched rock or bone. Clues and evidence live within a ‘simple’ sheet of paper, just as they reside in the well-worn paths of our memories.