Spaces of Transition:
Inside Sarah Bourne Rafferty's Studio
Meet alternative process photographer, printmaker & book artist Sarah Bourne Rafferty, July's artist of the month.
Sarah's work will be on display at our flagship store in Old City, Philadelphia throughout the entire month of July.
Join us on July 3rd from 6-9pm for our First Friday art showing, and Sarah's opening night with UBB.
What inspires you to create? Do you feel that the city of Philadelphia or the Pennsylvanian landscape has had an influence on your work?
I am inspired by the natural landscape just about everywhere I go. Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where water surrounds most everything, has inspired much of my alternative process photographic work, particularly my River Web series that I showed this time last year at United by Blue. In River Web, I explored the water's edge, and the multi-layered feelings that exist as the land transforms into water. While in Philadelphia for graduate school, I was continually inspired by the collections of materials I found on the streets much the same way I have looked at the water's edge growing up. Spaces of transition fascinate me. They seem to hold a different language, one of an "in-between world."
What is it that draws you to your medium of alternative process photography, printmaking and book arts?
One of the reasons I fell in love with alternative process photography is how the medium itself represents an overlapping of both photographic and printmaking processes. All three of these processes play a large part in my work. The physicality of printmaking and the hands-on nature of creating an alternative process print both resonate with me in the creative process. It is so much about the actual process and the final outcome. The same can be said for my work with book arts. There is a level of intimacy in all of these mediums that invites the viewer closer to each piece and asks them to look at the details. I love the connection that can occur in that space.
"Both the water's edge & layers of internal thought inspire my work."
Walk us through your creative process. Do you have a particular goal or message in mind when creating a piece?
When creating a cyanotype, I first prepare the wet chemicals which are light sensitive. I then brush them onto printmaking paper and let dry in a dark space. Once the chemicals are dry I lay collected materials on top of the paper and expose to a UV light (sometimes the sun and sometimes an old sun lamp that uses a UV bulb that are hard to find these days.) To finish the print, I submerge it into water. Where objects cover the chemical and light is not able to shine through, the chemical washes away leaving a white area. Where the light is able to expose the cyanotype chemical, the area turns a beautiful blue. When creating one of my pieces from River Web, the process is the same but includes layers of van dyke brown chemicals on top of layers of cyanotype, which creates browns and tans and blues that flow into one another. For those prints there are usually seven to ten different layers of exposures. I feel I am always exploring, on some level, the mystery of layers that appear in the world both physical and abstract. Both the water's edge and layers of internal thought inspire my work. One of the things I think about most is what those layers of thought feel and look like.
What’s the story behind the series you’ll be showing at UBB this month?
The series that will be shown at UBB this month is a collection of cyanotypes and some van dyke brown prints, designed in a vignette, with an undercurrent of what I see and explore at the water's edge. This connection to the earth's bodies of water fits so well with UBB's mission and dedication to water resources around the world.
What’s next? Any projects in the works you can share?
I have several shows coming up in October and November in and around Philadelphia. The Art Dept, in Fishtown, will house a large collection of my cyanotypes and alternative process photography in November. I am working on combining multiple layers of text and alternative process photograms for that show as I did for my Winter Whispers series, which can be seen on my website.