|Elisa Kay Sparks
The Power of Print
Digitally composed and altered images of Georgia O'Keeffe and Virginia Woolf
inserted into an outline of O'Keeffe's painting of red poppies. This was made for a
print exchange entitled, "The Power of Print." Most of the students in the class were
thinking of print in terms of multiple copies of a visual image, but since I am a
literature professor, I was also thinking of print in terms of writing. I started thinking
about the importance that printing had in the lives of Woolf and O'Keeffe and came
up with this freewrite, which i also inserted into the petals and the background.
I think of print in two contexts: as the power of the word, Gutenburg, the printing press, literacy the
spread of information; but also as the power of the image, the multiple image, over and over, the
creation of icons, advertising. Women didn’t begin having anorexia in droves until they were
besieged by all these images of how they should look. So the power of print is double-edged: not
only enlightening and democratizing, but also as Foucault explains limiting through surveillance. I
think of Georgia and Virginia and how their fame and identities have been created through print: O’
Keeffe’s flowers turned into posters, the laying bare of Woolf’s inner life through the publication of
her diaries, her letters, her drafts, how the photos of both have imprinted their faces on our ideas of
what it is to be a woman artist.
This is the digital original, which was printed out and then transferred to Arches
paper using acetone. The acetone tended to yellow out the color, so I carved a
version of the image onto a woodblock, and printed back over it in red ink to create
an embossed and more deeply colored print.