Commissioned by Summa Health
Materials: Digital ceramic frit on three glass panels, 72" x 86 5/8" overall.
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, ground floor, hallway partition outside conference center.
These three panels were created, in two cases, from digital photos that Taryn McMahon took of plant materials found in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park; the central panel originated as a digital photo that she then made into a print and then was scanned for this project. These particular images were selected to be printed with ceramic frit on three large — 7’ high and 6’ wide — panels of tempered safety glass such that they are visible from both sides, since they separate a heavily trafficked zone from a lobby area. The artist purposely chose to print on glass, since its translucence permits natural light from lobby windows to penetrate deep into interior spaces. The size of the designs and the materials used to create these architectural boundaries required a commercial printing company with industrial-scale equipment to realize and to handle, after the artist had consulted extensively with the architects of the new Summa Health tower and local architectural glass installers.
McMahon enlarges the images here to immerse the beholder in botanical detail; her work has explored flower and plant forms in nature and in historical botanical illustrations. She photographs and sketches forms that interest her and then scales them up, beyond the sizes we might expect.In earlier works, she has printed on large transparent sheets, such as Mylar, which she then cuts, drapes, and otherwise manipulates to create whole-room environments (see her Secret Garden at right) of enveloping natural references. She says, “Through my work, I imagine a future ecology in which technology and reality are collapsed into each other and the natural and the man-made have become intertwined and indistinguishable in the face of unprecedented ecological change.”
For this commission, McMahon selected a blue palette that harkens to cyanotype prints, an early light-sensitive process that used the reactive surface of prepared (blue) paper to register drawings (some of us might remember as architectural “blueprints”). The photographer Anna Atkins (1799-1891) pioneered use of cyanotypes to print plant and algae, and a number of contemporary artists/photographers continue this technique. McMahon may be the first artist to use the reference in an architectural print.
The particular printing process — ceramic frit on glass — used for these panels was chosen for its durability, given the need for a high level of hygienic maintenance required in a hospital setting.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
McMahon teaches printmaking at Kent State University’s School of Art. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at the Pennsylvania State University and a Master of Arts and a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Iowa. She also studied in Florence and at the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, N.Y. She has been the recipient of numerous awards for her work and of residencies enabling her to pursue it further (such as from the Anderson Arts Ranch in Snowmass, Colorado, the 55 Limited in Berlin, and the Vermont Studio Center).
She has shown work in solo and group exhibitions across the U.S. and in Europe and has created site-specific installations in Portland, Oregon, and Lexington, Kentucky. She also has curated exhibitions and has written about other printers and print processes. Her work is held in numerous collections in Ohio, New York, Texas, Colorado, Iowa and Iceland.