Hey everybody! Here are a few process shots from the making of my woodcut “Bird on a Cactus.”
So I can hear you saying “So LeeAnn, what’s with all like, the criss-cross lines in the background? Is the bird in a cage? Standing in front of a waffle? WTF is going on?!” Well first of all, calm down, and please, watch your language! The idea behind the lines is to be evocative of papel picado (mexican punched paper.) This comes across a little more clearly when you see the final product.
To finish up the piece I trimmed it out in this decorative shape to reinforce the papel picado concept, and then mounted the thin unryu onto some nice thick printmaking paper (Reeve’s BFK.)
As is the case with a lot of my personal work, I developed the imagery for this piece by drawing improvisationally, and was only able to identify once I’d started in on the carving, the significance of the image. Like many of my pieces this is a kind of self portrait. The bird on the cactus being a reference to the eagle atop the cactus of the Mexican coat of arms and the Aztec legend of the founding of Tenochtitlan, alludes to my Mexican-American heritage. However the bird in this piece is clearly not a legendary eagle devouring a snake, but something decidedly less bad-ass, an adorably chubby little finch…or maybe a slightly overweight black bird. By creating this representation of myself as this not-so-legendary little bird, I explore another aspect of my identity, that of being mixed. I think a lot of people of mixed race or ethnicity can probably relate to the feeling of not quite belonging in any group, not feeling quite legitimate. And maybe, like me, feeling like marking the boxes for both “Hispanic” and “White (not of Hispanic origin)” on standardized tests in school made it seem as if the two halves of your heritage somehow cancel each other out. So ultimately this piece is meant as a kind of tongue-in-cheek representation of my own identity as a mixed Chicana. I may not be the majestic eagle of Aztec legend, but I am still myself, and that’s still pretty good.
On a related note, I think I might do another version of this print in which the bird has a worm in it’s mouth to make the reference to the eagle more explicit.