Mixed Me­dia

New work by pho­tog­ra­pher Kitty Leaken

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

For her new­est pho­to­graphic project, Kitty Leaken is us­ing a thor­oughly or­ganic ton­ing process for a se­ries of still lifes. She soaks the im­ages, which she prints on photo can­vas, in tea. “I’m work­ing on this right now,” she said on a re­cent af­ter­noon. “I’m steep­ing these prints in tea. It’s so cool. I’m us­ing dif­fer­ent teas for dif­fer­ent prints. I did the first piece in Ti­betan laven­der. And I’m us­ing the same dose and the same steep­ing time that I drink.”

A se­lec­tion of these prints, which may be rolled up like scrolls or hung on a wall, is fea­tured in Tea Scrolls & Ceremony at Natasha Santa Fe (403 S. Guadalupe St., 505-913-9236). Leaken is a pho­to­jour­nal­ist who, among many other things, has pho­tographed the Mariage Frères Tea Room in Paris, the drink­ing of yak-but­ter tea in Ti­bet, and the af­ter­noon tea rit­ual at the Em­press Ho­tel in Vic­to­ria, Bri­tish Columbia, Canada.

Tea Scrolls dif­fers sig­nif­i­cantly from an­other re­cent project’s sub­ject: drag­on­flies in Na­tive Amer­i­can art. Ac­cord­ing to Leaken, the drag­on­fly is the se­cond most com­monly fea­tured crea­ture in the sand paint­ings made by the Navajo, who con­sider it to be the guardian of wa­ter and the sym­bol of pure wa­ter. She wrote a piece called “Navajo Drag­on­fly,” which was pub­lished in an on­line schol­arly mag­a­zine, and the direc­tor of the Drag­on­fly So­ci­ety of the Amer­i­cas flew her to Stan­ton, Vir­ginia, to present it in a talk.

Her new tea prints are pho­to­graphic still lifes of dead ar­ti­cles, such as flow­ers that have faded, seeds, and small skulls. The lightly de­tailed ob­jects and the pale tea col­ors give the prints an old-fash­ioned look. “I’m mak­ing this all up,” Leaken said about the process. “It’s a good as­sign­ment I gave my­self. It’s a con­tem­pla­tion. You can roll them up and then when you’re hav­ing a cup of tea you can un­roll them or you can take them with you. I was think­ing about pho­to­graphs and art prints and I’m just try­ing to get away from all the old rules — prints as framed and pre­cious. You can have a cup of tea and med­i­tate on them. That’s kind of what I’m think­ing about.”

Karen Gar­diner, owner of Art­ful Tea, will serve tea at the open­ing, 5 p.m. Fri­day, July 14. The prints hang at Natasha through Au­gust.

— Paul Wei­de­man

Small Trea­sure tea scroll (de­tail), photo can­vas print

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