My grandmother raised me. She was born with a large birthmark in the shape of a fish that covered her chin and neck. She referred to it as her purple stain.

When I was young she would often tell me the story of how it happened, repeatedly, throughout my childhood. She told me her mother cut her finger cleaning fish when she was pregnant with her. Her mother put her finger up to her mouth immediately to stop the bleeding and according to my grandmother, “marked her”.

Her mother died as a result of my grandmother’s birth several weeks later. Had she explained it any other way I would be a very different person today. I saw it as a beautiful pattern imbued with magic not an imperfection.

Untitled. Handpainted archival inkjet with goauche © Cathy Cone

My grandmother suffered though stares and pointing fingers often as I was holding her hand. These kinds of folk stories and explanations were part of my childhood and nurtured my imagination. They held a transformative power as a kind of magical soul medicine.

I begin by scanning tintypes that I started collecting in the late seventies. The printed photograph then becomes a contemplative ground for painting.

They are independent of each other physically, historically and on many other levels. The painted photograph essentially is a duet in which two mediums may contribute towards a whole. The integrity of both exists simultaneously in a shared physicality through and on the photographic print.

One. Handpainted archival inkjet with gouache © Cathy Cone

The composition is essentially a duet where both mediums are of equal importance. I’m interested in the translation of these found tintypes by reanimating or resuscitating the portrait.

I think of the portraits as time travelers while painting late night seances. With the help of technology, the scanned tintypes often lead to new clues perceptually. It provides a field for painting and mark making. Perhaps they’re tarot cards from outer space. It’s my way of re-touching history.

— Cathy Cone