Joan and Intaglio (Etching)
The underlying principles used by Joan in her intaglios, or etchings, can be traced back to Medieval Europe where the process was developed by goldsmiths and armorers. To record the engraved metalwork designs, these artisans rubbed ink into their intricate patterns and with tremendous pressure the paper was pressed against the metal. In the fifteenth century the importance of the engraved image grew, and the pictures produced with the intaglio method were used to instruct and to entertain the largely illiterate population A more expressive use of etching began to be seen with Albrecht Durer in the late fifteenth century. However, it was not until the seventeenth century with the genius of Rembrandt that etchings with flexibility and creative freedom evolved. Throughout the centuries the image has become an end unto itself and now Joan explores the expressive possibilities of intaglio to its fullest.

Starting with the same basic steps as the ancient artisans, Joan coats a large copper plate with an acid resist substance called a ground. The ground is then drawn upon with an etching needle, which exposes the metal wherever the point cuts through the ground. The plate is then put into an acid bath which "bites" the exposed line without penetrating the surrounding ground. Thus, a drawing is now etched onto the copper. After this process is complete, Joan sometimes turns to the twentieth century technique of photo-etching. By this process an etching plate can reproduce photographic images. In her darkroom Joan sensitizes the plate with a light sensitive emulsion, then places a transparent positive film on the plate and burns the photographic image onto the metal with an ultra-violet light. The exposed plate is then developed and dye is put on so the photographic image can be seen. The photo image is now ready to be etched into the plate. Finally, to yield the wide fields of rich tonal areas, Joan uses aqua tint. Derived from the Latin aqufortis, meaning "strong water" and the Italian tinto, meaning tone, it is a process to achieve these tonal areas using a weak acid bath. A powdered substance called rosin is dusted onto the plate and the plate is put into a weak acid bath which bites around the rosin. All these acid-scored areas are then wiped with ink to produce the intaglio image.

Joan's etchings are all printed on fine French 100% rag paper and each edition is printed differently. Some editions are printed in a single color, in others a single plate is inked with various colors. Another method is to add watercolor or oil pastels to the etching after it has been printed, thus individualizing each piece. The result is more than a display of how one masters an intricate art. With a rush of characters grinning and cavorting before symbols of stability, Joan juxtaposes an immutable world with the inconstancy of man.

Copyright 1998, Itzik Harel
Last modified March 26, 1998