C. C. Barton 

Fine Art

 

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THE PRINTMAKERíS CHOP

A Printmakerís Chop is a mark or seal made with an embossing tool in the margin of an etching or lithograph. It is a symbol used to indicate where the print was made, or more specifically, on whose press the inked plate with the dampened printmaking paper on top of it was "pulled" through. A printmaker may pull their prints on their own studio press, or they may have a master printmaker at a commercial press pull their editions of etchings or lithographs for them.

The chop is customarily a symbol that holds particular meaning for the printmaker or owner of the commercial press.

I pull my etchings on my own press and emboss each one with my personal chop, which is the small raised cluster of four stars you see just under my signature at the right in the lower margin of the etching. The cluster of four stars represents the Southern Cross, a constellation seen only in the Southern Hemisphere.

In 1994, I made a guided trek through the high jungles and mountain passes of the Peruvian Andes to the ruins of Machu Picchu. I saw this distinctive constellation for the first time on an evening walk through a mountain village with friends. I was astonished by the simplicity, the brightness, and the power of it, and began to search for it each night after supper.

I reached Machu Picchu early on an August evening, entering the mountaintop fortress through a massive stone gate above the ruins, over the same foot-worn stone path used by the Incas long ago. I was accustomed to seeing fabulous geography along the way, but the view that welcomed me was unforgettable. It was the same as in the photos and guidebooks - the classic view of the intricate architectural remains of a beautiful city of stone spread across a vast grassy plateau, with the very pointed peak of Huana Picchu rising surrealistically into the mist in the distance - but the photos and guidebooks had no way to factor in the pure emotional impact of it.

The first night, our guide arranged a rare late night private entrance into the ruins for those who wished to go. I felt my experience of the place deepening as I made my way through the dark, up and around the stone stairsteps and massive rock walls to the highest chambers open to the night sky. Up there, in that powerful place, I had my most memorable look at the Southern Cross. Viewed from that mountaintop, under those circumstances, it was a life altering experience. In a quiet few moments, with those four brilliant diamonds suspended so close over my head, I received a momentary view of eternity - of things larger than my small life, of endless possibilities, and of the need to lengthen my reach for the sake of experience and growth.

My life changed dramatically from that time forward, including the career change that now brings this work from my studio to you.

Using the Southern Cross as my chop is my way of honoring that experience.