Michael Hager

I like to use existing objects to create images.  These range from discarded piles of debris to seared and melted plastic to, most recently, the human body.  I either use digitally altered photographs of the objects or the objects themselves as starting points in the creative process.                          

To describe my use of the body as a matrix, I construct a box-like form using the wood into which I will ultimately carve.  I then place the model, who has been covered in latex paint with drying reducer added (to make the paint easier to wash off) along with an amount of flour (to thicken the paint slightly for adhesion), into the box.  I roll the box across the floor, making sure that the model has made contact with each interior surface.  Sometimes, I roll the box twice, producing a double image that can add a movement effect.  The model then exits the box and I proceed to dismantle it.  The structure’s sides become the wood blocks from which I print (see images above and below). 

Once I have the image on the wood block (via Xerox transfers or direct printing from a body), I begin to carve into the wood.  I like to use maple or birch plywood for three reasons.  First, the construction of a sheet of ¾ inch plywood is very stable and resists warping and curling.  Secondly, the thin veneer acts as a depth guide for my cuts.  I use shallow cuts to produce fine details.  Finally, the grain of the two types of wood does not interfere with the image.  I am very aware of the grain when I place the image on the wood; the grain can actually enhance the final print.

With the carving done, I print the image using the intaglio inking process.  This is simply the application of ink, filling the groves instead of coating the surface (most etchings and engravings are inked in this manner).  I like the subtlety of this approach to printing an image, particularly with the blending of colors.  To do this, I print the same block twice, wiping the surface differently with the respective colors.  To solidify the body forms, I add a layer of metallic foil.  I do this with a type of glue, which I paint onto the selected surfaces.  With the combination of glue, pressure and heat, the foil is laid down in a permanent, archival way.  The foil is actually located between the two layers of ink.   

I like to ink the blocks in many different ways.  The intaglio method of inking makes it nearly impossible to print two or more identical images.  This is fine with me, as I like the idea of a unique print, also known as a monoprint.  This application of the ink also creates subtleties of colors and tones, somewhat like a painting.