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“Happy Time/Doomsday Time” captures time and temporality with plant-based printmaking

On Nov. 4, University of New Mexico associate professor of art Meggan Gould’s exhibition, “Happy Time/Doomsday Time,” had its opening reception at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory. Running until Friday, Nov. 25, the exhibit explores capitalism, temporality and the nature of photography itself.

The exhibition consists of a series of prints of clocks printed through anthotype, a form of printmaking that uses photosensitive plant materials to produce an image. Gould used whatever plant materials she had available, from berries to greens to flowers mixed with liquids to create a photosensitive dye emulsion.

Gould started working with anthotype printing methods during the COVID-19 pandemic when classes shifted online. She taught a “kitchen sink photography” class which utilized food-safe agents such as garden plants and alcohol as mediums for printing images.

“I just never stopped making them. I got really excited by them and just kept going,” Gould said. “So, this exhibition is the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to show what I’ve been quietly making for the past couple years in this context.”

Master of fine arts student Jessica Metz took the class and said the process was very difficult and full of trial and error. It also took on an element of artistic research in investigating the processes which went into creating effective dyes.

“To walk into Meg’s show and see all these bright, vibrant, intense colors was incredible because I know how hard she must’ve worked to get there. I saw one of her prints that was a beautiful purple-pink, and it was red cabbage, and I was just like, ‘man, how did you get that,’ because I worked with red cabbage a lot and I could not get those colors,” Metz said.

The clocks are set to two different times: the first is 100 seconds to midnight (the current time on the Doomsday Clock which represents the approximate time before a human-made global catastrophe will occur). The second is set to 10:10 — what Gould called “happy time” — the time almost universally shown on watches in their advertisements. The hands form a smile, associating the watch with happiness to consumers.

“I just got obsessed with the clock motif and the sort of capitalism at stake in it. And part of me trying to use this plant-based process is that it’s inherently anti-capitalist, also. You can’t reproduce it; you can’t industrially produce it at all. It’s very much a handmade object that is difficult to incorporate into a capitalist reality of photography,” Gould said.

The installation was assisted by former graduate student Daniel Hojnacki, who was largely responsible for the final product being gridded the way it was, with special attention paid to organization by color and vibrancy.

Rosalba Breazeale, who assisted in Gould’s kitchen sink photography class, shared an interest in temporal, plant-based image making. They also brought up the question of sustainability in photography brought to light through this plant-based process, especially with the unsustainable mining practices that go into making traditional cameras.

“There’s a lot of aspects of digital and analog photography that just isn’t really sustainable and requires a lot of various ways of becoming that just aren’t good for the planet,” Breazeale said. 

Gould’s artwork is concentrated in the concept of photography and language. She said that this project is an extension of this fascination, but it covers some unchartered territory of exploring the most rudimentary elements of the medium.

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“I feel like I’m still trying to tease out what photography can do, and this is photography at its very most basic act of photosensitivity, this act of bleaching anything. So, I feel like I have not much explored before this kind of how basic can you go, so it feels totally normal and right for me,” Gould said.

Zara Roy is the copy chief at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at copychief@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle

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