Blueprints: A Collaboration
Artist Susan Weil, who was a student at Black Mountain College, and photographer José Betancourt began collaborating in 1996, eventually creating a dynamic series of blueprint photographs, or cyanotypes. From the Greek meaning dark blue impression, cyanotype is a simple photographic process involving a light-sensitive solution that is coated on a paper or cloth support onto which the image is then printed by exposure to ultraviolet radiation (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms). The cyanotype photographic printing process has been used since the mid-19th century. In fact, Weil’s own grandmother produced a self-portrait as a child in 1870. Betancourt as well has a personal history with the cyanotype – the last photograph he took of his own grandmother he printed as a cyanotype. As collaborators, Weil and Betancourt use leaves, trees, birds and other elements of the natural world as inspiration. They have pushed the boundaries of the traditional cyanotype, constructing large-scale collages and inserting 3-dimensional objects, and printing on both paper and fabric. The lush, Prussian blue, Betancourt remarks, makes the cyanotype “the most seductive of photographic processes because of the…color that seems to be so deep that you can’t help but stare.”
Additionally, Weil has collaborated with various calligraphers, bookbinders and handmade paper-makers to produce her series of limited-edition artist’s books, Livres d’Artistes, published by Vincent FitzGerald & Co. In her Livres, Weil’s etchings, drawings, paintings, paper cuts and gold leaf accompany stories and poems by Rumi, Gertrude Stein and James Joyce, among others.