Caitlin Parker crisscrosses coasts in her cyanotype debut.
Misty Monday greetings, collectors. It’s Jen again, and I’m verrry excited to introduce you to the latest addition (and edition!) to our roster, but first some holiday-related biznich: If you’re giving the gift of 20x200 art prints or photography this holiday season, a) THANK YOU and b) tomorrow, Tuesday, December 10th at 3pm ET is our deadline for guaranteed delivery by December 24th. (Aka Christmas Eve, aka the second night of Channukah, aka two days before Kwanzaa.) So what are you waiting for? Get gifting! And if, like me, you are a New Yorker and an epic procrastinator who harbors a deep mistrust for the USPS +/or other carriers, you’ll wanna make selections from this delightful collection of prints and Artist-Made editions, then swing by our HQ in Dumbo on Wednesday evening to pick it up at our very first Open Studio.
And now for today’s main event: the 20x200 debut of multidisciplinary artist Caitlin Parker, and her bounteously beautiful cyanotype print, Bi-coastal. This aspect of Parker’s wide-ranging practice has its roots in the work of another formidable woman we’ve featured extensively here on 20x200—Anna Atkins, whose pioneering exploration of the medium nearly two hundred years ago culminated in the publication of the first photography book.
Rooted in history though it may be, Parker’s take on this image-making process is decidedly modern, departing from Atkins’ in significant ways that reflect the changes in how artists live and work in the 21st century. It also symbolizes a state of mind that very much resonates with my own life for the past decade, which has been split between two coasts that I often wish we could squish together. (Or like… maybe teleportation can become a thing? That’d be fine too.)
Botany plays a central role in both Atkins’ and Parker’s work, but the specimens featured in Bi-coastal are a manifestation of Parker’s experiences crisscrossing the continent, an impossible marriage of flora that she describes as “representative not just of specimen but a span of time.” Parker’s combinations suggest a world that I very much want to live in, one where the distant shores of New York and California can commingle, connected perhaps by that other mythical figure in art history, the mighty Hudson River.
Impossible indeed, but there’s something so inspiring in the physical process that underpins this stunning image. By combining plants from the Hudson Valley garden she left behind with the very different life that perseveres in the arid climes of Southern California (where she’s lived and worked for a bit over a year now), Parker has figured out a way to forge a new life that is so deeply informed and inspired her practice on the East Coast. And in rooting them together virtually, she’s reminding us that these are places that can—and should—only live together in the imagination.
That imagination is what transforms life into art, and it’s also what distinguishes Parker’s work from the tradition she is building upon. As much as I adore Atkins, her creations were very much constrained by her framework: more science than art, less about aesthetics or ornament, and more about documentation. Atkins’ later work, created in collaboration with her adopted sister Anne Dixon, shows flashes of artistry, but it’s a distinct departure from the more straightforward images of single specimens that she’s most well-known for. Parker’s work reflects her own knowledge of—and reverence for—the natural world, but as an artist (and woman!) in the 21st century, she is freed to explore their emotional and symbolic depths.
Parker’s and my coastal crisscrossings are amazingly similar, so much so that I said “get out of my head!” more than once during the wide-ranging call we had yesterday while discussing Bi-coastal, but the practice she’s adopted since arriving in California embodies a thing I’ve never been quite so good at myself. The phrase that recurs to me again and again as I think about this edition and her practice in general is “bloom where you are planted” and it’s a perfect reflection of what she’s managed to do in her life and work: engaging deeply in the new world she finds herself in without leaving behind where she’s come from.
With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200