What do light bulbs, electrical cords and the ocean floor all have in common? According to Olivia Timmons, the artist of the new exhibit which opened Oct. 26 at Te Paske Gallery, these seemingly unrelated objects have many connections.
Timmons’ exhibit, “Light in the Dark,” highlights the effects of humans on the environment. It challenges the viewers to contemplate the mistakes of the past and gives them a glimpse into what the future holds.
“The more that humans strive to advance technology at the expense of the natural world, the more we lose familiarity with that world, disrupting an awareness of the environment and severing connections with the past,” Timmons said.
In a murky haze of layered hues, Timmons metaphorically and literally wraps human technological progress around deep-sea life in her delicate prints. By doing this, she creates an artistic entanglement that speaks volumes.
In Timmons’ artist statement, she wrote, “My work underscores the danger of failing to take responsibility for the planet in the pursuit of progress.”
This idea of progress-induced consequences comes through her sea-inspired chaos, in which her controlled lines and attention to details are hard to miss. The light bulbs in jelly fish and the power cords in exotic sea life starkly contrast the smooth elegance of the sea world. Technology may be progress in human standards, but by this exhibit, its presence as a hindrance to nature is much more apparent.
Despite the undertones, the exhibit has an ethereal-meets-whimsical appeal. Timmons’ love of aquatic life and nature sparkles on every print—and it is not just due to her use of glittery metallic ink color.
“I always loved going to the aquarium,” Timmons said. “I wanted this exhibit to have the feel of one.”
After growing up in South Dakota, a land devoid of trees and large bodies of water, Timmons sought to create her own ocean of sorts. Ironically enough, she did so in the deserts of Arizona while she attended Arizona State University.
Her thesis piece, “Light in the Dark,” is a series of prints that have undergone varying printmaking processes. In this exhibit, Timmons executed the practices of intaglio, the process of etching the design in waxed copper, covering it up with ink, wiping it off and using the remaining residue for the print; and monoprints, which are essentially printed paintings (they have a variable quality to them that makes that unable to be identically reproduced). Timmons also practices chine collé, in which the image is transferred to a surface that is bonded to a heavier support in the printing process, and a la poupée, in which the colored ink is applied directly to a plate’s surface and worked into the appropriate area of the design using cotton daubs called dollies; both processes assist in color layering.
Timmons’ time-consuming methodology of different techniques allows her work to acquire the sense of depth and create the sort of smoky ambiance that is so characteristic of the ocean floor. The differing colors allow for a realistic depiction of floating seaweed and microorganisms. Above all, this technique emphasizes the presence of light in a world of darkness.
“I wanted to emphasize light as a commodity—as a greed,” Timmons said. “Everyone wants the light in the dark.”
Human life runs on batteries, electrical outlets and power cords. Lights line the streets, the movie theater aisle and construction signs. Little kids wear light up shoes. Nail polish can glow in the dark.
Our world depends on a chaotic web of light. Our world almost glows with human progress. This “light” has permeated the depths of nature. The rays have plunged into the seas and have reached the unknown creatures that live there. However, on the ocean floor that “light” of human progress morphs into a disconcerting strobe of environmental destruction.
“I hope to generate an open dialogue about issues that concern all of humanity, especially in the effort to inspire changes in the way people interact with the natural world,” Timmons said.
The gallery exhibit, located in Korver Visual Arts Center, will be open to the public until Nov. 30. It is an aquarium of printmaking, but more importantly, it is an exhibit of awareness.