Bonny Lhotka rarely prints any of her photographs on paper. That would be boring. “Foothills Frost,” for example, is printed on tempered glass. “Green Street” is printed on acrylic. Through the years, her printing media has ranged from aluminum to copper to plastic to tile to marble and others. She has even printed on more offbeat materials such as scrap metal, plywood, silk, bamboo, window screens, burlap, tar paper, sandpaper, leaves, lead and even sand.
For “Foothills Frost,” Lhotka printed using a flatbed inkjet printer—essentially, the same as our own inkjet printers at home, but much larger. To print on tempered glass, she first printed on transfer film, much like T-shirt designs that you iron on. She covered the glass in warm gelatin, then rolled the transfer film onto it, affixing it to that semi-liquid surface. She covered that image with a second layer of gelatin. Then she let everything dry for a couple days.
You are now viewing the image through the uncoated side of the glass. The transparent areas of the image allow you to see through to deeper layers of the glass, giving the work a luminosity, texture and depth that can’t be attained by any other technique.
For “Green Street,” Lhotka also used her flatbed printer. There was no complicated gelatin or transfer process here. She printed the image with ultraviolet pigments right onto a paper thin acrylic sheet, a surface that gives the colors their stunning fiber-optic sheen.
To look into a reflective Mylar sticker in an auto-shop window and see art, as Lhotka did here, one must have a deep commitment to creativity. She claims it’s mostly the process that fascinates her.
Says Lhotka: “It’s not the end product that I get interested in, it’s the journey to get there. That’s why I do my artwork. I like the mechanics of adding and subtracting to get where I’m going.”