Before the cyanotype was popularized by artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Susan Derges and Florian Neusüss in the 1960s, it was used by architects, astronomers and botanists. It is therefore fitting that contemporary artist Tasha Lewis appropriates this method of camera-less photography to make anthropological sculptures. To transform her two-dimensional cyanotypes into three-dimensional objects, Lewis uses mixed-media paper, tape, wood, and wire to build the forms of human portraits, birds in flight and thawing animals, among other shapes and characters. She then uses a photochemical reduction process to print on cloth, which she hand-sews and patchworks together. The artist refers to this outer layer as the “skin” of her sculptures.
According to Lewis’ artist statement, this current body of work is born from an interest in taxidermy and illustration as ways of striving to preserve life after death. Though the monochromatic forms retain the lightness of her installation “Swarm NYC,” which Hi-Fructose covered in 2013, Lewis’ sculptures have a less organic, more homemade aesthetic compared with their predecessors. The artist’s aim to question preservation practices however, qualifies the pseudo-craft appearance of the otherwise highly technical artworks. Instead of glowing trophy pieces worthy of prime real estate over the fireplace, Lewis’ sculptures reveal the flaws and discomfort in striving to protect something already gone.