Mordançage

Since the day I was born, I have had a close relationship with my grandmother. Born one day apart, Grammie always called me her birthday present, and it is widely accepted in the family that I’m the favorite grandchild. I have always been affectionate, and growing up I was prone to giving her hugs for no reason. Even to this day she always says that she looks forward to her Michael Hugs.

For several years now Grammie has suffered from macular degeneration, where her vision has faded to the point that all she can see is a large black spot and gray shapes around the periphery, with the occasional hint of color. It has pained me to see her quality of life diminish as her vision faded, becoming more of a recluse the more she lost her independence, desperately clinging to whatever bits of it she had left. Even now, at 95 years old, she is adamant that she not be a burden to anyone and insists that Mom spends too much time with her and is neglecting Dad. One of the interesting aspects to her blindness is her reliance on a flashlight. As her vision initially faded she would use a flashlight to be able to see certain things, especially in dark places like a restaurant. The flashlight, however, has become her security blanket – it doesn’t help anymore, and half of the time she doesn’t even know if it is on or off – but she insists on taking one with her wherever she goes.

As I began thinking about a concept for this project, my mind kept coming back to the veils produced by mordançage. All I could think of is them being draped over something, covering and obscuring things. It wasn’t long before I connected this with Grammie. The prints that I have made are from photographs of her and her room at her assisted living facility. Based on her own description of her eyesight, these prints represent an abstraction of how I imagine her vision appearing through her eyes, with veils clouding her perception and ability to see detail. She also has to feel her way around to find things, which is difficult to convey through photographs. This reliance on feel and texture played an interesting aspect in my prints as the crackling effect achieved through mordançage created a surface which emphasized her need for and reliance upon her tactile senses.