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Imperfect Pearls in the Ether of Infinite Labor

woodcut and lithograph, printed by Vinalhaven
edition of 25
15 3/8 x 22 1/2 inches

“I was in Maine working with two master printers in 1996. Imperfect Pearls was prompted by Nirvana’s song “Lake of Fire.” I started researching religious imagery and was most taken by Tibetan Thangkas. I wanted to get the beautiful worn tones, especially ones that depict a background of fire or hell. I felt it would be a place for a meaningful image to float and something I could believe in. It came to me that the two printers were working so hard on my behalf, that to honor our association and intense labor, I needed to make this piece.

I asked them to grease their hands and touch the sensitive surface of a lithographic stone with only their fingertips, while I was not there. Then they had to walk away and do no more. I came in later, oiled only my thumb, and pressed it to the surface. Over the next few days and nights I surrounded the fingerprints with the “flames” or “ether” of labor. The printers then came and treated the stone with acid to burn in my drawing and our fingerprints and ready it for the press. It was printed on the most subtle silver veil over a dense backdrop of red and blues printed by wood cut block to get the mottled and aged tone and atmosphere of “unyielding truth.” It was an extremely difficult edition to print.

So, the imperfect pearls are the touch of human hands, surrounded by labor, that try (regardless of the atmosphere of fire) to endure and to make meaning out of chaos.”

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