Amatl In Ancient Mexico

The tradition of making bark paper by hand dates back to the ancient Maya and Nahua peoples. The Maya were the only civilization to develop their own written hieroglyphic language. Transactions were recorded on bark paper, which at that time was called hunn.

The Nahua, also known as Aztecs did not have a true written language but a series of pictorial  images. The Aztecs had folding books containing pages of images which are used to help people study and memorize history and rituals, among other things.

The Spanish arrived and Amatl, as it was originally known, was replaced by European paper, but the remote village of Otomi continued to make paper from fig and mulberry tree bark. This is really important, as the arrival of the Spanish caused many ancient papers to be destroyed and all but erased the bark paper making skill.

It is interesting to note that the Amate process is still considered just as important as whatever is painted or written on it.  Noting that my interest in migrants, surfaces, hand making books drew me to working with this paper. 

‘Amate Bark Painting: Facts, History & Designs’. 2020. [online]. Available at: [accessed 24 Nov 2020].

Week 9 Reflection

This week was the last 1-1 with my tutor for this module and was an important date to get clarity on a few issues that I had been having with sequencing and how to link very different visuals together.

As a result of the pandemic and rising Covid 19 cases here in Texas, my work has taken a dramatic shift from being able to photograph buildings and migrants to having to travel to rural Texas to photograph historical buildings ready for renovation. Then there was a complete shutdown which pushed my work further towards folding, bookbinding and origami.

Printmaking has been central to my work for many years. Paper is the key to successful printed images, but it is not just the surface that makes the print, it is the complete package of surface, what is on the surface, and the deckled edge. My tutor suggested Anna Krentz’s thesis study on Snapshots With an Edge.

KRENTZ, Anna. 2014. Snapshots With an Edge: A Study of the Deckle Edge in the North American Snapshot. St. Francis Xavier University.

Towards a Hyperphotography

My first camera was analog and I spent many years working with film. The digital shift came with a bit of resentment on my part however, with four young kids and a constantly shifting homelife it was eventually embraced for what it was; immediate.

“Most digitally constructed photographs depend, as does analog, on the shutter’s release. But they use rows of pixels, each one defined in its color and hue as an integer, rather than a chemically processed grain.”

Fred Richin, After Photography.

Richin also goes on to say that the digital photograph can be looked at as a meta-image, a map of squares that could serve as a pathway to somewhere else. This is precisely how I like to work and I find direction in Richin’s words.

This will be explored with reference to a piece discussed in todays 1-1. Pixels are fascinating, since they could become the colour codes and swatches that I have to date, being hand mixing and painting. The image is right there and the pixels can give me those swatches. This is a pivotal moment that would not have occurred without the 1-1 meeting.

RITCHIN, Fred. 2010. After Photography. First paperback ed. New York, NY: Norton.

Aldo Tolino

Tolino is an artist and teacher living and working in Vienna, Austria who works with geometric folds and origami. The facial landscapes series is visually engaging however, this method works well with portraiture as it distorts the just enough for it to remain recognizable as a face. The image engages us visually as we try to make sense of the new forms.

Kühle Streicher – Facial Landscapes

“Alles Beobachten, sei es als Wahrnehmung oder als Denkleistung oder als Kommunikation, setzt ein unbezeichnet mitwirkendes Unterscheiden voraus. Der Beobachter kann sein Instrument […] nicht beobachten, also auch sich selbst nicht in Operationen beobachten. Aber es gibt eine Beobachtung zweiter Ordnung, die genau darauf achtet, wie (mit welcher Unterscheidung) ein Beobachter beobachtet. Und das gibt uns den Schlüssel für die Auflösung der Paradoxie des Unsichtbarmachens durch Sichtbarmachung der Welt. Denn ein Beobachter zweiter Ordnung kann sehen, das der Beobachter erster Ordnung nicht sehen kann, was er nicht sehen kann.”

“Look at everything, whether it as awareness or thought provoking or as communication, notice the subtle differences. The observer is unable to watch his instrument (…) but neither can he watch himself at work.
But there is a Second Level observation, which watches precisely how, (with each difference) an observer watches. At that is the key to unlocking the paradox of invisibility achieved through visibility of the world.
Because a second level observer can see, that the first level observer is unable to see, what he can see.”

It is with help from friends and family that we can have this translation.

The technique of folding is fascinating and could become a part of my future explorations. The way that the information in the photograph subtracted to create a new distorted image will be a good thing to explore as you can alter your images and control what is seen which is really interesting. This can also be important in relation to migrants and immigration, since our ‘normal’ can appear very different through the eyes of the beholder.

‘Kühle Streicher – Facial Landscapes – Aldo Tolino’. 2020. [online]. Available at: [accessed 13 Nov 2020].

Vincent Floderer

This origami work by Vincent Floderer is so inspiring. His work is so organic, hands on and he is fascinating to watch. The scale that Floderer uses for his installation is very moving. I aim to explore this method of crumpling in the next two modules.

‘La Caverne Origami – Vincent Floderer (Images 28mmphoto) – YouTube’. 2020. [online]. Available at: [accessed 18 Nov 2020].

‘Vincent Floderer’s Origami – YouTube’. 2020. [online]. Available at: [accessed 18 Nov 2020].

Live Briefs

At the beginning of this module we were asked to participate in group pitches for live briefs. Having just been diagnosed with sciatica which would require at least three months physical therapy, I was very concerned about letting my team down, so reluctantly decided to opt out of this brief.

The live brief pitches were made today but due to time differences between the US and UK, I caught up with the recordings. The pitches were very professional and I especially liked the Contrapol presentations. There were a wide variety of ideas that were really engaging from branding to video, dance and music. Although unable to join for this team excercise, watching the videos of the interviews really helped by gaining an inside look at how these things work. It was interesting to see how the pitches had developed over time, see the final images and to hear all the teams’ ideas.

My Website

This week we were asked to share our website with our peers and we also had to include sites that we liked. Laura Letinsky came to mind along with Erwin Olaf and Hiroshi Sugumoto.

Here is my website (Links to an external site.)

This was set up when I returned to the US after a tour in Australia, initially for commission work in portraiture and printmaking. Since starting the MA it has been left unattended and clearly needs work. (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)

Work in Progress PHO704

Second draft.

4. Historic Rural Home. 3

12-15. Flag book and paper folds.

Week 8 Reflection

The weekend was spent trying to resolve an installation issue for the kusudama migration. Initially, these pieces were displayed on a wall, but this did not appear to be the best way to show this work. I first explored this at the start of this module and I knew that it would be included in some way, but I made the decision to work on something else until another installation idea presented itself.

This weekend two wooden panels were prepared and painted, and using a selection of construction nails of different sizes, the pieces of origami were attached to the support. I find the idea that photographs of the surfaces would provide work for migrants is an interesting one, with the likeness to migrating birds being another. These photographic images would become the kusudama pieces. Nailing them to a surface speaks of the difficulties that often arise when leaving a homeland and the shadows created by having the pieces at different levels was also engaging.


‘In Mexico, This Mothers Caravan Is Not Going to U.S. In Fact, It’s Warning of Journey’s Dangers’. 2020. NBC News [online]. Available at: [accessed 2 Oct 2020].

CNN, Catherine E. Shoichet and Geneva Sands. 2020. ‘The US Detained Hundreds of Migrant Children in Hotels as the Pandemic Flared’. CNN [online]. Available at: [accessed 3 Oct 2020].

‘Shadow Immigration System: Migrant Children Detained In Hotels By Private Contractors’. 2020. [online]. Available at: [accessed 28 Sep 2020].

‘Whistleblower Nurse Alleges “hysterectomies Performed on Immigrant Women” in US’. 2020. [online]. Available at: [accessed 16 Sep 2020].

‘Whistleblower Alleges “Medical Neglect,” Questionable Hysterectomies Of ICE Detainees’. 2020. [online]. Available at: [accessed 16 Nov 2020].