In the spring of this year I took part in the annual Watermark Printmakers show at the Martin Batchelor Gallery. This year’s theme, Labyrinth, was a timely and intriguing one for me.
When researching ideas for this theme I discovered that, contrary to my preconception, labyrinths were not mazes with diverging paths that you needed to find your way through to an exit but a single, circuitous path that lead you inward to a center after which you retrace your steps to go back out again. The way in is also the way out. The challenge then was not how to find your way out of the labyrinth but whether you dared to enter at all, not knowing what you would find at the center or how you would be upon your return. When entering the labyrinth you leave the outside world behind, taking only yourself, your heart and your courage. As you walk through its turnings, you lose track of direction and of the world left behind, thus allowing your mind to quiet and focus inwards. The physical journey becomes a spiritual one. As you make your way to the center, you find your center and thus a greater understanding of yourself which you are then able to take back with you into the world.
The labyrinth as personal journey inspired me and I resolved to create works for the show that would both reflect my own recent personal journey and also, in their very creation, help me along it. These works would also serve as a sneak peek of the one woman show I have planned for January, 2010.
I decided right away that one of the pieces would represent a labyrinth in miniature. I had over the past year or so begun to write haiku poems. Most of these came to me as I was either walking or running alone with only my thoughts for company. I chose a collection of these poems and paired them with photo etchings of various sizes made specifically for the piece. The etchings were all self portraits derived from several photo shoots I commissioned from my friend, Jonathan Dvorak.
The design for the labyrinth was a carefully planned pattern on both sides of a single 22” x 30” sheet of printmaking paper which was to be folded and cut in such a way as to have all the images and words upright, and following a path of rooms to view towards a center and back out again. However, for both practical and aesthetic reasons, the starting and ending points, unlike an actual labyrinth, would be on opposite ends so that the journey could be followed from either direction, indicating that this was an ongoing journey of highs and lows, as our journey through life invariably is.
Below are front and back images of the piece prior to being cut and folded.
Creating this piece had its own measure of highs and lows. The first attempt at printing the etchings proved disastrous as after painstakingly inking all the plates and successfully printing one side of the paper I then mistakenly laid the wrong end of the paper down for my second run through the press, printing over the previous prints and ruining an entire day’s work. The second, and final, run, with poetry and directional swirls added, is the image at the top of the page.
Several more views of the piece are below. I titled the piece Walkabout, that endearing Australian term for a journey of discovery.
“Go in or go home.” “I will go there and back again.”
These lines from The Lord of The Rings, a story with a hero very dear to my heart, perfectly encapsulate the journey that one dares to take in a labyrinth, a journey where one doesn’t get lost but instead finds oneself and returns a changed person. Frodo embarked on a tortuous journey into grace, with extraordinary courage and humility. This journey is one we take continually in our lives—if we are brave enough to enter.