Etching and Personal Alchemy with Yemaya
The osain finished up. Oyalesi, an elderly priestess of Oya, had shown up late with two goddaughters amidst whispers. Earlier that morning She had identified the body of one of her sons, who’d been hammered in a drive-by. She had gotten through that important chunk of the santo. Everyone was already tired and a bit on edge as they flooded into the kitchen to decompress with snacks. Conversation felt awkward. Oyalesi seemed remote and lumbering, and no one quite knew how to approach her. Omi Leti, a priestess of Yemaya, seemed particularly distracted as people hovered toward her as though she was at the apex of a triangle. Suddenly she convulsed. Her head snapped back amidst a snakey halo of flying dreads as her belly undulated in exaggerated tidal rhythms as she sunk to the floor. A bubble dome of static electricity enveloped us as Yemaya rose. The holy mother of the world walked over to Oyalesi who crumpled into her arms amidst deep sobs….
Not only is it rare for someone to be possessed outside of the ritual call of the drums, but Yemaya and Oya are bitter enemies. To witness them embrace raised mundanity to transcendent empathy. Tragedy had not ended but rendered bearable in that flash of the divine.
That possession etched itself into my mind: the travails of primordial mothers turning bad blood good sharing a moment of maternal devastation…Existence didn’t suddenly become kind. Yet the break down of liminal boundaries stilled life’s tragic vortex in release of antagonism. Moment that makes life bearable…
I first interpreted that possession in an oil painting shortly after it occurred. Years later I entertained the notion of using the painting as the basis of a print. I chose a large 16” by 20” zinc plate as the matrix. I began by roughing in the shapes with light drypoint outlines. I then applied aquatint to the plate. That proved more arduous than usual. a large zinc plate will slightly buckle when heated. Add to that every hot plate has a sweet spot. So I had to subtly manipulate the large plate which had gotten quite hot to make sure that the aquatint had melted allover the plate. Add to that I repeated the aquatint procedure three times to ensure that there would be no bald spots.
Once that was done, the plate needed to be bitten in nitric acid to add areas of tone. I decided to do a series of timed stop outs to avoid having to apply aquatint to the plate more times than necessary. I immersed the hold plate for about four minutes before stopping the action of the acid by immersing the plate in water. I then stopped out those areas of the plate that I wanted to represent highlights using hard ground thickened with a generous addition of asphaltum. Once that dried I placed the plate back in the acid, and repeated the steps a few more times. I also during the drying of the stop out occasionally dripped mineral sprits onto the plate to remove the ground and break up the shading’s conformity.
I knew from jump that I wanted to keep the image rough and not too polished…Moments of transcendent, indeed the gods themselves, are not all that clear and spotless…
If you would see more about our printmaking processes, please leave a comment. We our work to put together workshops about our printmaking processes at Three Bones Society, so that you can use them to reveal your own visions.