Chestee Harrington

Moonbeams and More

Julia Street Gallery | New Orleans, Louisiana | 2008

 
In 2007, Ruben DeSantis, a longtime friend of Chestee, brought her a gift: four massive blocks of longleaf pine.
 
“He told me, ‘Have fun! Do something with these!’ ”
 
DeSantis, a contractor, was renovating a historic New Orleans structure that dates to the 1800s, the former Café du Monde coffee roasting house on Tchoupitoulas Street. The blocks, cut from structural beams, weighed almost 100 pounds each.
 
“After about a year of studying the wood, I got the idea to represent the four forces of the creative process, based on the Book of Genesis: water as truth, air as spirit, earth as physical manifestation, and fire as love, which is constant blessing.”
 
She began with large sketches — 27 inches tall and 44 inches wide — sized to wrap around each beam. They were carefully composed so that each side of the beam would produce one image. But the composition was also a sequential one: the four panels, printed in succession, created yet another, complete, image.
 
She transferred the drawings to the wood and carved each block in preparation for printing.
 
“My large flatbed printing press was too small, so Ruben helped me construct a four-foot by eight-foot print-and-registration bed on the floor of my studio.”
 
Friends helped Chestee ink, lift and register each block. “We stood on them to transfer the images onto paper,” she recalled.
 
After the printing was done, Chestee hand-colored some of these limited edition prints. She also transformed the woodblocks into polychromatic bas-relief sculptures.
 
There are three completed titles in the series: Lunar Invitation, The Dawning and Rebirth of the Nation.
 
The drawing for the fourth and final design, Golden Return, is complete.