Every spring the spotted salamanders migrate from the woods behind my home in Ithaca, New York. We watch for them on rainy nights. With a flashlight you can see their little dinosaur bodies moving forward into the night. My print called The Quickening, was inspired by the salamander migration.
Most of my work is created by a process called relief printmaking. It involves carving a piece of wood or linoleum, rolling ink onto the surface, and then transferring the ink/image onto paper. The final print will be the mirror image of the carved plate. My favorite part of the process is carving the plate.
But first, I must get the drawing onto the plate.
Now for the fun part!
When you first roll ink onto the plate, it seems to spring to life before your eyes. I love this part.
Next step is printing. Here’s my press:
Once they are dry, I can add color and experiment.
The final print:
The word quickening references the idea of something speeding up but it is also a word used in pregnancy for the first moment that a woman feels the baby move in utero. Because I was a midwife for many years, I especially love that double entendre. I frequently see the process of making art with midwife eyes. Birth metaphors always come to mind.
In this print I was interested in exploring a certain kind of psychological undercurrent. Sometimes we experience the kind of change or upheaval that is marked by a departure from life as it has been. There is no going back and no discernible path forward. It’s like the proverbial night sea journey. Carl Jung talks about it as kind of a descent into Hades — to the land of ghosts somewhere beyond this world and beyond consciousness. Whenever I have a character in my art holding a salamander, it’s there to help find the way forward.
Sylvia Taylor is one of eight gallery artists represented by Main Street Arts. She is featured in the exhibition CULTIVATE which runs April 7 through May 18, 2018.