Category Archives: Printmakers

What good does your art do for the world?

What good does your art do for the world? I realize this is a challenging question for artists — at least it is for me. But as 2017 has come to an end, it is just the sort of thing I want to ponder as I make plans for 2018.

Swoon The Canyon • 1999 – 2017. Installation at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center.

Printmaking meets installation

During our recent arctic blast, I made the 2 1/2 hour drive to the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center to see the work of Caledonia Curry, who also goes by the name Swoon. Curry combines large scale relief and silkscreen printmaking to create large vibrant installations. Spanning two floors, the exhibit also makes use of wallpapers that she designed and had printed near her Brooklyn studio.

Swoon The Canyon • 1999 – 2017. Installation at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center.

The exhibit, entitled Swoon The Canyon • 1999-2017, is Curry’s first retrospective show. We see her take inspiration from New York City street scenes and subway windows, and then transition to much larger social and environmental themes. Often, Curry combines the creation of the work with some sort of direct social involvement. Her early New York City work was adhered with wheat paste to the very neighborhoods she was celebrating.

Swoon The Canyon • 1999 – 2017. Installation at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center.

Printing the personal…

Curry looks to more personal themes in the section entitled Medea. The lifecycles of women are superimposed on intricate wall papers as she works through personal themes of love, loss, trauma and forgiveness. An explanatory pamphlet and many audio visual links accompany this exhibit, so I felt both included in the artist’s process and thinking, while still being able to engage with the work on a personal level. As my own children leave me for their own lives, the Medea section was particularly poignant.

Swoon The Canyon • 1999 – 2017. Installation at the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center.

… as well as the political

The final section of the exhibit encompasses Curry’s interest and involvement with social justice, where she seeks to have her artistic practice affect change for individuals and communities. She has done this in Kenya, Haiti, and Mexico, as well as communities in the United States. In the image above, Curry highlights her work in Braddock, PA where she helped establish a non-profit that provides employment for young adults creating architectural and fine art tiles.

I came away both encouraged and a bit daunted. My path to art creating has been different from Curry’s to be sure. I probably won’t be able to affect change on the same scale. For 2018, I’ve decided to keep my eyes open for opportunities to make the world just a bit better. Perhaps one person at a time.

How will you do good in 2018?

 

Share

Seeking the painterly in printmaking

My latest large cloud-inspired linocut is in the stage I would characterize as “a hot mess.”  After carving away the white highlights, I have spent the last week and a half printing large swaths of fading blend rolls to create the color changes of a setting (or rising) sun.

This is asking a great deal of the relief printmaking technique, where the options are “ink or no ink” on the block. My block is 25 x 40 inches, which means I am trying to get forty inch solid passes of color with no roller marks. The blues I am using are very transparent, which makes uniformity even more difficult. Plus the Rives BFK Heavyweight has a distinct texture which does not allow absolutely flat color when you print on dry paper. This results in the following:

painterly-beginnings

Painterly, or a hot mess? This is still up for debate.

The resulting skies will be the backdrop for dramatic clouds and hopefully I will no longer obsess about the random “underprinting” of sky once these clouds begin to appear.  This is the painterly quality that I cherish in other artists’ work. Printmakers will often stare at parts of a print and praise an area of interesting color or texture — “Oooh, I just love this area here…” I blame my issues on the tradition of editioning and the tyranny of the white border. Clearly some printmaking therapy is in order.

I had the pleasure of meeting two printmakers this week whose work has encouraged me to embrace a more painterly printmaking process. My work was included in Serial and Sequential: A printmakers performance” at the Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago. I was drawn to Kim Laurel’s work on Dura-Lar film that captures the flighty movement of dragonfly. (Visit her website to see a good image of this work.) Equally appealing were Candy Nartonis‘ use of stencils and lithography to explore textures and tones within simple shapes.

cathy-nartonis

Candy Nartonis with her explorations of tones and shapes.

While the quest for perfection (or at least replication) nags me, I’m going to try to celebrate the beauty that variability and texture brings. Now to carve the large block and bring on the clouds!

 

Share

Channeling the flux capacitor

At the end of March I am headed to Portland, Oregon for the Southern Graphics Council International’s annual conference. This is the first printmaking conference I have ever attended, and as a person without the official blessing of an MFA, I’m a bit nervous. When I registered for the conference, one of the options was to participate in a print exchange.

Printmakers are among the most generous artists I have encountered. They readily share their secret ways of registration and are eager to problem solve with you in Facebook groups. Since they can make more than one image, they share those as well. For the exchange, I needed to produce an edition of 13 images with the paper size of 11 x 14″, and consider the event’s theme of FLUX. I found this theme baffling. Take a look at my finished image — draw your own conclusions — and then I will explain my thinking.

Arboreal Record

© Elizabeth Busey. Arboreal Record. Reduction linocut, 11 x 14in paper size, edition of 13.

The only thing flux brought to my mind was Doctor Emmett Brown’s time traveling DeLorean in the Back to the Future movies. The conference suggested I think about urban change, the DIY culture and the places where the past and the future flow into each other. Not exactly what I do…

While reading definitions of  flux, I found the ideas of energy, change and force fields most illustrative. I finally decided on a stylized tree cross-section. This tree trunk has experienced rapid change, as evidenced by the change from concentric circles to waves. Because of the importance of forest products in the Portland area, this was a nod to a change from clear cutting to a more responsible way of growing and harvesting trees.

The colors of the linocut were inspired by dogwood blossoms, with reddish tips and green interiors. I first printed a flat shape of pale yellow mixed with titanium white. I then added a blend roll of pale pink on the edges, and used a dauber to add green to the center.

Arboreal Record 2 layers

A creamy yellow layer is topped with a pink rainbow roll around the edges and stippled green center.

Carving the concentric rings was a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon. Gold ink created the rings, with a final addition of textured purple around the edges that represented bark.

Arboreal Record block

Carving concentric circles is hypnotizing. Very reminiscent of the vinyl of my childhood.

The best part is that when I leave the conference, I will have a portfolio of ten original prints from other artists to enjoy. Isn’t sharing wonderful?

Time for our Back to the Future marathon…

Share

An Afternoon with Gustave

I took a break from my studio routine recently to visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s exhibit entitled Gustave Baumann: German Craftsman — American Artist. Baumann actually began his career printing the landscape right near where I live. He joined painter T.C. Steele in Brown County, Indiana carving and printing the hills, forests, fields and quaint rural buildings. Baumann’s relocations and travels truly informed his work — from the browns and oranges of a midwestern fall, to the blues and purples of the Pacific Ocean.

gustave baumann valle grande

Gustave Baumann (American, 1881-1971) Valle Grande, 1939. Color woodblock print, 12 3/4 x 12 3/4 in.

Each period in Baumann’s career was covered extensively in this exhibit. I was most drawn to some of his later work from the mountain west, where he uses brilliant greens, yellows and purples in dramatic ways. Baumann used multiple blocks to create his imagery, and the resulting color combinations are spectacular. It makes me wonder if I should use a few more blocks! (more…)

Share

From limestone to linoleum and back

It began with a Facebook message. Bloomington area sculptor Dale Enochs wanted to know if he could come to my studio and see my printmaking process. It is not often that an accomplished artist wants to see my studio. During our visit and subsequent conversations, I learned that Enochs was revitalizing an interest in printmaking that had started during college and graduate school, where he admits he was fascinated by tools and materials.
One of the things I did was sing the praises of linoleum. Unless you need the grain of the wood, linoleum is easier to carve than many types of wood and holds edges better than rubber. I gave Dale two square of linoleum to try out, and worried I had led him over to the dark side. A few months later, he gifted me with this diptych, entitled Dialogue. I shouldn’t have worried.
 
Two linocuts of silhouetted faces with energy running between them.
Dale Enochs. Dialogue. Linocut on paper. Ready for a frame and a place in my house!
Enochs has been a sculptor for many years, and his stone and metal creations grace many buildings, homes and outdoor sites throughout the world, and right in our town. His installation Elemental Indiana fills two giant walls in the ticketing area of the Indianapolis International Airport.

(more…)

Share

Another printmaker comes to town!

One of my New Year’s resolutions for my blog is to highlight artists that I enjoy — especially printmakers. February provides me with the opportunity to introduce you to James Hubbard, who will have an exhibit at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center in February in Bloomington Indiana. For those of you in Bloomington, you can meet James on Friday, February 7th from 5pm until 8pm.

James Hubbard, Mountain Contours Through Pines. Linoleum Print, 12 x 18in, 2013.

(more…)

Share

First Time in the Hall

I live in Midwestern basketball country. Although there have been years when the home team Hoosiers have not been a formidable opponent, Assembly Hall is always an intimidating place. It is a relatively small arena, with seats that rise to ridiculous, gravity-defying heights. We’ve only ever attended pre-season games, and I can imagine how these college kids from much smaller schools must feel.  Excited, overwhelmed, surrounded, inadequate, humbled, inspired.

Just about to enter the 808 Gallery…

(more…)

Share

Women provide the inspiration

“Free the Women Artists” cries a poster from The Guerrilla Girls.  The poster demands that the artistic work of women, now locked in museums’ storage areas, be released to see the light of day.

I’ve been metaphorically locked in my house for about two weeks, taking time off from my role as printmaker to put on my mothering and caregiving caps. Worry, lack of sleep and many hours watching almost all of the Harry Potter movies kept me from creating in my studio. With everyone recovered, I knew I needed some artistic refreshment.

(more…)

Share