Most ancient peoples had no word for the color blue. They could not explain the sky nor the ocean. Poetry and love letters suffered. Once “blue” entered the world the earth rattled and chimed, sending forth “turquoise” and “sapphire.” The Navajo and the Jewelers rejoiced. Poets wept. Picasso danced and Policemen beamed.
On Saturday, September 28, artists worldwide will gather in backyards, parking lots, galleries, and parks to connect, create, and celebrate the color blue by making cyanotypes. Four years ago, a community of photographers led by the late Judy Sherrod set out to create the world’s largest cyanotype, larger than the then-current record holders’ 117-square-yard piece. As one of the earliest photographic processes, cyanotypes are known for their signature Prussian blue color. Sir John Herschel invented the process in 1842 by treating paper with an iron-salt solution. The paper is developed by sunlight, making the cyanotype a favorite among amateur photographers through the turn of the last century.
To make the record-breaking print, Linda Stemer of Blueprints on Fabric coated ten 3x10 yard pieces of fabric with equal parts ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide and shipped them to Johnson City, Texas where a team of five artists spent four nights sewing the pieces together. Word had spread of the massive mural print and on September 19, 2015, artists and educators gathered together in Johnson City to lay in the sun. Their figures left ghostly outlines on the fabric as sunlight and chemistry made their shadows permeant. Finding that there was no specific day dedicated to the cyanotype, the group declared their completion of the world’s largest cyanotype (10x30 yard fabric mural) the first annual World Cyanotype Day.
Since then, each year on the last Saturday in September, artists and art enthusiasts are encouraged to come together to create cyanotype photographs, photograms, or other projects in the process’ striking blue tones. This year, locally organized events will be held all over the world including cyanotype murals, workshops, and exhibitions. At the birthplace of World Cyanotype Day in Johnson City, an exhibition of cyanotype flags on the theme of Land/Sea/Sky will be on view through October 21 before travelling to the Healing Arts Center in New Orleans from December through the end of Mardi Gras. We eagerly await the myriad blue-hued art pieces that will be made, exhibited, and enjoyed by artists all over our blue planet.
Learn more about World Cyanotype Day and how to participate at worldcyanotypeday.com.