Blue Morpho Butterflies, Gold Dust and Banana Oil

I have been working with printing on different materials from copper and aluminum to styrene (plexiglass) in search of a certain radiance that cannot be achieved even with metallic papers.  My inspirations are pictures painted on glass that my great aunt collected in the 1920’s in Brazil that used the iridescent wings of Blue Morpho butterflies as background, and a method used by Edward Sheriff Curtis that he called “orotone” which involved coating a positive image on a glass plate (basically a contact print of a glass negative) which he painted with gold dust suspended in a lacquer known as “banana oil” for its scent.  The blue morpho method is obviously a dead end not just because I wouldn’t use real butterflies, but because their iridescence comes from the physical structure of the wing surface, which can’t be duplicated.

So I am experimenting with Curtis’ technique,  printing on styrene instead of glass and trying to find an affordable substitute to gold dust and banana oil.  After much effort and many, many failures, I am coming close to a substitute.  Unfortunately, I can’t show these on my website because the medium must be seen in person to be appreciated.  At the end of this month, I will be showing a few of these at VIVA Gallery in Viroqua, Wisconsin.  If you can stop by to take a look, let me know what you think.

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