Anna Atkins (née Children)
She coaxes precision from fluid medium—calcified shell structures: crenellated Murex, Solarium perspectivum, womb-shaped Isocardia open, empty.
Littoral cobble, liminal, from edge of land to edge of light’s reach. Specimens, sea refuse; she gathers, preserves, documents.
Thin pencil and water wash mimic light and shadow, the effort of it invisible; she makes her own work disappear from view. How many hours, the motherless girl, pulling 256 shell shapes from soft paper?
From below: the perspective sundial, receding spiral, curve and hollow, aperture, dark interior. Vanishing point.
Later the blueprints—not plans but specificities. Sun-drawing; selection, arrangement. Seaweeds float ghostly in cyan, translucent, tissue-thin. Layered and curved, overlapping whites, flattened.
Volume only suggested.
The blue, sea-mirrored, atmospheric. Clouded through tree branches, or star-pricked, midnight firmament, its changes cyclic, shifting constant, cerulean, ultramarine, indigo.
Divided, season and tide; empty skyspace. Ancient galaxy light by Hubble’s deep-seeing eye. The photo snapped, infinitesimal moment, counted slice of second, duration, slips.
Immensity, of immaterial things, gaps; the space between. Indefinite continuous duration. The deeps. An opening, ajar, inner sea, celestial time, across yesterdays, tomorrows.
To see, she delimits. In monochrome distraction falls away. Sun through forsythia: forget yellow for translucency. Sweetness of bitten columbine. Petals pressed. Form and structure, edges and veins.
The prints develop slowly—a world in negative; reversal. Whites lighten. Deep color takes coaxing. She tones—sharpness of vinegar, sting of lemon. Payne’s gray to Prussian blue—the thrill as it brightens.
Megan Spiegel is an MFA candidate at Western Washington University, and serves as Hybrid Genre editor for the Bellingham Review. Her prose, poetry, and collaborative works have appeared in journals such as Sweet, Fugue, and Vinyl.