It’s rare we get to deep dive into one 20x200 artist’s impression of another 20x200 artist’s work, but it's a scarcity we savor. You’ll see why when you read the introduction to our nuanced new Caitlin Parker piece, Catskill Prairie, as penned by the brilliant Jen Hewett. Like Parker’s debut edition, the image we’re releasing today was originally a cyanotype—a process pioneered by 19th century botanist and photographer Anna Atkins, whose birthday just so happens to be this Saturday, March 14th. Perhaps you’ll want to collect one of our Atkins editions to hang alongside this new Parker print, in a sort of conversation, imaginative modernity meeting the past. Whatever you do, don’t miss Catskill Prairie or Hewett’s insights on the subject below.
— Team 20x200
I learned how to create cyanotypes from Caitlin Parker, the artist behind today’s cyanotype print, Catskill Prairie. On a sunny afternoon last summer, just across the Hudson River from the Catskills, Caitlin taught a group of us the process, letting us use the pressed plants she’d collected over the years, as well as flowers and foliage from her friends’ gardens.
Cyanotypes are an accessible medium; you just need a few materials from the art supply store, something to print with, something to print on, and sun (which, because both Caitlin and I currently live in California, is often in abundant supply). However, as with any medium, proficiency with the technique doesn’t necessarily make you a good artist. Like Catskill Prairie, the best, modern cyanotypes not only demonstrate an understanding of the medium, but are also rooted in aesthetics and artistry.
Through layering and exquisite composition, what Catskill Prairie does so well is capture a brief–and imagined–moment in time, when yarrow and bee balm are in bloom, when fescue and coneflower abound. Caitlin gathered the plants for this piece from her friend’s land in upstate New York, a nostalgic recreation of the midwestern prairies (which do not occur naturally in upstate NY) of her friend’s childhood. Looking at Catskill Prairie, you get the sense that you’re seeing something delicate, fleeting; indeed, the fading, tall fescue stalk in the rear suggests that this moment and landscape will soon vanish, will soon be replaced with new flora, a new season.
We’re transitioning into a new season, which means that, in the northern hemisphere at least, the grays of winter will soon give way to the blooms of spring. Our landscape will change, the light will shift. We’re reminded that all this is temporary. But what is the point of art, if not to capture a moment, a feeling? Caitlin’s Catskill Prairie invokes exactly that feeling of impermanence and lets you cling, for more than just a second (because that’s the beauty of an edition), to what is.