Ellenwood: "Fading Reefs 2"
Fading Reefs 2, 2020
Media: Anthotype Print made with red cabbage
Print Size: 4 ½" x 6"
Frame Size: 8" x 10"
Elizabeth Ellenwood is an artist, photographer, and ocean farmhand living in Pawcatuck, CT. Her work revolves around the ocean and making images that call attention to pollution in our waterways. Elizabeth is a recipient of a U.S. Fulbright Student Research Grant and an American Scandinavian Foundation Grant to collaborate with an environmental chemist and marine biologist in Norway. Her solo exhibition at The Alexey von Schlippe Gallery was supported by a Connecticut Sea Grant Art Support Award and the University of Connecticut Zachs Award. She is a recipient of a 2019 Denis Roussel Merit Award and the Joan and George Cole MFA Award. Elizabeth’s work was published in the Spring/Summer 2020 Issue of WrackLines Magazine and exhibited at The Newport Art Museum, Candela Gallery, and The Vermont Center of Photography. Elizabeth received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from The New Hampshire Institute of Art and a Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art from the University of Connecticut.
Our ocean’s coral reefs are rapidly turning into anemic wastelands due to global warming. Fading Reefs aims to visually communicate coral bleaching through the photographic process of anthotype printing, which uses the light sensitivity of plants to create a photograph. The print develops as the sunlight destroys the pigment in the exposed areas of the plant emulsion, bleaching the print. Unable to be fixed, the prints will fade over time. The anthotype process is a perfect way to tell the reefs’ stories, the bleaching pigment in the prints references the devastating loss of pigment rich algae that not only give corals their colors, but most importantly keep them alive. The anthotype prints in Fading Reefs are delicate, time sensitive, and beautiful – just like our ocean’s coral reefs.
The anthotype process requires time and patience. This photographic method begins with crushing or juicing a plant to create the light-sensitive emulsion. A piece of paper is then soaked in the liquid and dried, absorbing the pigment of the plant. An image on transparency film is placed on top of the color-stained paper and then placed in direct sunlight. The image develops and appears on the page as the sunlight bleaches the pigment in the exposed areas of the plant emulsion. This is a very slow process, depending on the plant used and the strength of the sun, the printing can take days, weeks, or even months. Once developed, anthotype images will fade over time especially if they are exposed to UV light. There is no way to make them permanent, which is a beautiful quality to embrace. In the 1800s anthotypes were stored in what they called “night albums” and only viewed by candlelight to help preserve the images. Some artists build boxes, or use black fabric over their framed piece to protect the prints while they are on display. When Fading Reefs is exhibited, I embrace the impermanence of the process and leave my prints uncovered to speak to the vulnerability of the coral reefs the iamges are depicting. The anthotype process is a perfect way to tell the reefs’ stories, the bleaching pigment in the prints refers to the devastating loss of pigment rich algae that not only give corals their colors, but most importantly keep them alive. The prints in Fading Reefs are delicate, time sensitive, and beautiful – just like our ocean’s coral reefs.