Socorro Mucino literally develops and prints photographs using various processes. Not with a digital click or by sending a well-liked photo off to a photo lab, but by applying a variety of chemicals and UV light to expose images.

Artist Socorro Mucino takes a selfie in her studio. Her artistry is expressed in the anthotype print images she creates. Credit: Socorro Mucino

The finished image might look like a manipulated photo to the untrained eye, but it is the tactile making of the photo using chemical/light processes that create Mucino’s art.

She changes her chemistry and subject matter often and says, “When people walk in [my studio], they must think many artists work here, as my approaches to printmaking change so often.”

Mucino shares a combination studio and lab at Noyes Cultural Arts Center. Because she prefers to work in the afternoon after lunch, her studio mate Jennifer Schuman works there during the morning and welcomes the morning light for her photography. Mucino really enjoys having a studio within the cultural center where she can share ideas with the other resident artists. 

One of artist Mucino’s images, Looking up. Credit: Socorro Mucino

Mucino’s studio has many of her diverse art prints on the walls. There are several items you might expect in a print shop. She has an etching press that she loves and notes, “It’s a real work horse that has a 24×48 inch work bed.”

In addition, she has a large table to spread her work on, a work sink and a light box. Because the old classroom windows of the Noyes facility let in so much bright light at certain times of day, she must occasionally cover the windows to protect her work in process from overexposing!

Supplementing the studio, she has a small press at home she uses when the weather is bad. 

One of Mucino’s anthotype images, Soon You Will Cage Me. Credit: Socorro Mucino

Mucino also has sewing equipment at home with which she has recently been making aprons using up-cycled jean fabric. She has made the aprons a family affair by sometimes using fabric with printed images created taken by her adult son or daughter. 

In her ever-evolving experimentation with alternative printing, she is currently exploring the use of light and botanical chemicals to make anthotype images produced using a process invented in the mid-19th century. Anthotypes can be made using a variety of plant materials and liquids for different colors and effects. 

To start a work for the project, Mucino makes an emulsion of turmeric and alcohol that she uses to coat heavy archival printing paper. The turmeric turns the paper yellow – just like in cooking. She puts the coated yellowed paper in a dark drawer to keep it from the light as it dries. 

To create her anthotypes, she is using digital family photo images created during a school project while volunteering in an art class at a Chicago public high school. She loads each image into Photoshop and manipulates it to create a high contrast photo. Next, she prints each as a positive image on a transparency sheet. She then assembles a “sandwich” of cardboard, the coated paper, the imaged transparency and a plate of glass. These are clipped together to keep them flat.

She places the sandwich either in the sun or in her portable LED UV light box and exposes the image for several hours. If using the light box, she puts up a barrier around the sandwich to avoid overexposure.

Mucino creates anthotype print images such as this one. Credit: Socorro Mucino

Then to bring the exposed image to life, she sprays a borax and water solution on the paper in the sink and the image “magically appears.” But the “magic” isn’t at all consistent so the final image may not have the qualities Mucino is seeking. Sometimes she must do the entire process several times to achieve her desired image. The actual color of the print also varies in different shades of brown and sepia giving each printed image a unique trait.

Once she is satisfied with an image, she rinses then places the print under a heavy weight, so it dries flat. To finish, she signs and writes the edition number on the  finished print. The final artwork is stored in a plastic sleeve with a stiff backing board and placed in an archival box or a flat file.

Living and working in Evanston has enabled Mucino to meet many talented artists. When she studied at Chicago’s Lillstreet Art Center, she met an Evanstonian who became her first show partner. Evanston Made and Four Hands Collaborative continue to be important artistic connection points for her. 

To learn more about Mucino, visit her website at www.socorromucino.com, Instagram at @socorro_mucino or Shop Evanston at https://shopevanstonmade.org/collections/socorro-muccino

Jean Cunningham

Jean Cunningham retired from the business world and is now enjoying the next phase, including writing about local artists to increase awareness of Evanston’s amazing art community.

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