When visual artist Kristen Abbott sets out to make new work, she doesn’t know what she’ll get until it’s done. That’s because the art practice of the 33-year-old Boulder resident depends on a delicate and unpredictable balance of nature and the Colorado sun.
Her current exhibition The Language of Leaves, on view through Oct. 8 at The New Local Annex on West Pearl Street, showcases the result of Abbott’s methodical and painstaking process. First, she gathers leaves from the trail near her home in South Boulder. Then she arranges her found materials on cyanotype-coated surfaces before covering with cut glass and exposing them to sunlight, modifying the composition with organic compounds, watercolor and pan pastels.
“I consider myself a mixed-media painter. I get to partner with water and leaves and sun to create these paintings,” the Arkansas native says of her wet cyanotype technique used on delicate materials like silk, linen and cotton. “A traditional cyanotype would be more of a crisp image you would see from a film negative. So I’m kind of playing with the experimental nature of the materials and process.”
To help others harness the elements and create their own works, Abbott will host two cyanotype workshops at The New Local Annex in the coming weeks: an experimental course for adults on Sept. 16, followed by a silk scarf workshop on Sept. 24. But just like the weather on the Front Range, when it comes to the end result, you never know how things are going to shake out. For Abbott, it’s all part of the process.
“I left [one] piece outside for like 12 hours. I put it out before I took my kids to school and didn’t pull it in until night,” she says. “And it was so hot, the glass ended up shattering — but the effect was so freakin’ cool, I didn’t even care.”
Kristen Abbott: The Language of Leaves. Tuesdays and Thursdays (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) through Oct. 8, The New Local Annex, 713 Pearl St., Boulder.