24 December 2010

Peaceful Holidays

I recently heard a pundit say that there's more violence in America's living rooms than on America's streets. That may or may not be true, but what I do know is that it can be easier to talk about peace in the Middle East than it is to address making peace in our own families. I'm fortunate that I come from a loving and intact family, yet we still have our differences. Like many families in the 21st century, mine spans several different religions and a wide range of political views. Plus, we have plain old individual quirks that can drive each other nuts from time to time. There's nothing like the holidays to bring all of that into the forefront.

It wasn't until I was in my 30s that I discovered a powerful weapon for keeping the family peace: Intention. Rather than approaching the kitchen table with trepidation, just waiting for the first jab or disagreement, I realized that I could approach my family with the intention of bringing peace. I could stop focusing on who loved and accepted me and who didn't. I could resolve to simply love and accept every person at the table just for their quirky beautiful selves. I could stop waiting for love and resolve to be the Lover.

That lesson was solidified for me when my father was sick with cancer and was driving us nuts recounting the same stories over and over again. I realized that even though it was irritating to hear the same words again and again, a time was fast approaching when I wouldn't be able to hear his voice at all. So I learned to say, "Yes, daddy, I love that story. Please tell it again." And then I would listen to that voice I had known since childhood, its tone and timbre, and try to memorize its song. I still miss his voice at Christmas these 10 years later.

I go now to the family table, bringing food and a few small gifts and especially bringing my intention to love. May we be happy. May we feel joy. May we be at peace.

And may you, my online friends, be happy. May you feel joy. May you be at peace.

love, Annie

06 December 2010

Peace On Earth, Good Will to Animals

Walton Ford, "The Island" (Image via Paul Kasmin Gallery)
Anybody who blogs will be familiar with the phenomenon called "comment spam." Comment spam comes in several varieties. Some are anonymous comments full of links that blatantly advertise other web sites that have nothing at all to do with your blog. Other comment spam is actually relevant to the content of your blog, but advertises its own agenda. Usually this type of spam is done by using an alert program that hunts for relevant keywords and then places the spam into conversations about those words.

This morning I received the latter type of comment spam on my latest post, "Studying Peace." Rather than place it in the comments section I thought I'd elevate it and give it a post of its own, as it deals somewhat with the subject of "peace." Since it was an anonymous comment, I can't credit the writer, but because it falls into the category of spam I'm going to delete the portion of the comment that sends the reader to a vegan web site. (If you're interested in visiting a vegan web site, I'm sure you know how to find one.) Here's the comment:

A Holiday Thought...

Aren't humans amazing? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed. Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer. So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coates~

First of all, let me state right up front that I'm repulsed by factory farming of animals. My own meat consumption has gone from daily when I was a child to about 2ce monthly just from contemplating the unpleasant notion of eating the carcass of a frightened cow. I also agree with the sentiment that humans are amazing. And I agree with the implied message that human logic is often ridiculous and flawed or simply absent.

What I don't like in this neatly packaged paragraph is the idea, also implied, that if we were all to stop eating meat there would somehow be peace on earth. To me this is a wishful oversimplification, not unlike "cut taxes and government spending" as the solution to all our economic problems or "just say no" as a method of stopping drug traffic. If things were that simple we'd be done with them.

As I discovered in my research for the Pilgrim series, the practice of keeping domestic animals is quite ancient and it came to North America with the colonial settlers. The practice of eating animals goes back forever as far as I can tell. So does the practice of making war. I don't know if it's possible for us to entirely stop doing either one.

The question we seem to be facing right now, in almost all areas of our living, is how/whether we can keep doing our human things at a global scale. How long can we continue to make war before our weapons wipe out the planet? How long can we keep privatizing goods and resources before we've sold our children's futures? How long can we keep consuming cheap goods before we run out of cheap labor and fuels and we have to pay what things are really worth? Our food cycle certainly falls into these categories too -- industrial farming of both plants and animals is unsafe and unsustainable.

Getting back to the topic of my current print, I'm pretty sure that adopting a vegan lifestyle will do little to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But what would peace there look like? I believe that both the Palestinians and the Israelis want peace, but they disagree about what a peaceful Israel/Palestine would look like.

What would peace on earth look like? Is it possible?

Thanks for the topic, mr. spammer!

17 November 2010

Print Week NY 2010 - Lighthouse Fair

Back to some reporting on my visit to NY Print Week. This year marked the first "Fine Print and Drawing Fair at Lighthouse International," an event that I had some trouble finding out about. I was first tipped off by a mention from a friend, but when I googled "Lighthouse print fair" the actual web site for the event didn't come up until page three. (The SEO problems seem to be partly because the event doesn't have its own URL and partly because the information is a jpeg of the announcement rather than html code that would allow search engines to pick up the words.) This fair is apparently a breakaway from the IFPDA group, as you can read here on the Annex Galleries web site.

Chatterboxing by Hibiki Miyazaki
At any rate, it's too bad that the publicity was less than stellar, because the fair had some fine exhibitors.

First was my all-time favorite exhibitor, Davidson Galleries of Seattle. It was nice to see an etching by Hibiki Miyazaki (right), whose work I know only from online.

I spent a long time at the Annex Galleries' booth poring over their huge collection of color woodcuts spanning many years and many artists. I was amazed to see (and have the opportunity to touch!) some very rare prints by Gustave Baumann. I also appreciated being introduced to the woodcuts of Sylvia Solochek Walters (below). Walters was chair of the art department at San Francisco State University for many years and now serves on the Board of the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley CA.
The Road Is Closed by Sylvia Solochek Walters
Unfortunately, by the time I finished perusing the Annex Galleries it was already way past lunch time and I still had the entire IFPDA Armory show to see so I gave short shrift to the rest of the Lighthouse Fair. Please leave a comment if you went to Print Week and let me know if you made it to Lighthouse. I'm curious to hear what others thought.

11 November 2010

Print Fair North!

The past two days of my studio time have been devoted to preparing for "Print Fair North," the annual open studio sale at Zea Mays Printmaking in Florence, Massachusetts (just outside of Northampton). There will be hundreds of prints by over 30 artists in all price ranges. I've prepared about 50 prints for the sale, most from editions but also some experimental one-of-a-kind prints and proofs. I'll also have copies of the We Are Pilgrims book for sale.

If you come to western Mass. for Print Fair North, be prepared to make a day of it. The building where Zea Mays is located, the Arts and Industry Building, houses over 100 artist's studios and small businesses and has a regional reputation as the workspace of some of the area's most creative people. Print Fair North coincides with the Arts and Industry Building's giant Open Studios event. It's a chance to visit dozens of artist's studios in the building as well as this fantastic print fair. Hope to see you there!

Nov 13-14, 2010
10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Zea Mays Printmaking
Arts and Industry Building
221 Pine Street, Studio 320
Florence MA

08 November 2010

Print Week NY 2010 - EAB Fair

I'm back from my whirlwind 14-hour trip to New York to see this year's Print Week offerings, or at least as many as I could cram into that short amount of time. This year there was a new fair, the "Lighthouse" Fine Print and Drawing Fair, in addition to the EAB (Editions/Artist's Books) Fair and the venerable (20 years!) IFPDA Print Fair at the Armory. Each of the fairs had its own personality and emphasis, which made for an interesting day. I'll look at each fair in its own post over the next few days.

My first stop was the EAB (Editions/Artist's Books) Fair in Chelsea. Of the three print fairs, this one is the broadest. It's kind of a hybrid event featuring artist's books, two-dimensional prints and works on paper, three-dimensional multiples, small installations, and even some video. It's definitely the most contemporary and hip of the three fairs and the most accessible with its free admission. Here are a few exhibitors that were highlights for me.

"Grass 2.2" moku hanga by Mike Lyon, 22.5 x 72 inches
I was happy to see Center for Contemporary Printmaking from Connecticut. CCP, the self-described "only nonprofit organization between New York City and Boston solely dedicated to the art of the print," is located fairly close to where I live, but shamefully I've not made it there yet for a visit. I was excited to see that CCP was showing Mike Lyon's moku hanga print "Grass 2.2" (shown above). Mike has been a virtual friend on various printmaking web sites for several years but I've never seen his work in real life so it was a treat. I was surprised when the CCP representative who I spoke with didn't know that Mike cuts his large blocks with a computer-controlled router. That fact, to me, is one of the most interesting aspects of Mike's work -- he designed, built and programmed the carving router and also designed and built a very large-bed press with a special system to deliver the large sheets dampened paper to the bed. This equipment is quite amazing in its own right.

"Untitled" by Jiha Moon
I've been interested in the artist Jiha Moon ever since I had the opportunity to watch her work with master printer Peter Pettingill at Smith College a couple of years ago, so when I saw a piece that looked like her work at the Landfall Press booth I had to stop and investigate. The recently completed print, shown at right, is more understated than some of Moon's other work and I really like it. The white pieces of paper you see at the top are fortune cookie fortunes. I'm not sure if this is an etching or a lithograph. Anyone know?

Unlike some exhibitors at the other fairs, representatives at the EAB Fair seemed willing and in fact eager to talk with just about everyone who was passing through. I had a nice conversation with a man who was selling Esopus magazine. Esopus is an arts magazine published twice a year that features fresh work from a wide range of creatives, themed for each issue. A sampling of fiction, poetry, visual essays, interviews, etc. can be found in each issue, plus a themed CD of new music. I bought a subscription!

"Settlements" by Serena Perrone
I also enjoyed some time at the Cade Tompkins Editions booth. Cade Tompkins is an art dealer who also represents RISD Editions, the Rhode Island School of Design's visiting artist’s program in the Printmaking Department. At the booth I saw work by Daniel Heyman as well as Serena Perrone's wonderful etching plus moku hanga piece shown above, printed by Ningyo Editions.

"I Am Living…" by Graham Gillmore
I want to note one other work, a screenprint by Graham Gillmore. The Dorfman Projects booth displayed four or five different versions of this piece, each with a different hand-painted background, and there was something quite heart-wrenching about the sentiment expressed. If you're an artist, you can't read these words without irony, yet you also know that these same words are held deep in an artist's heart where they ring with complete earnestness. I found myself deeply touched by that dichotomy.

Next I'll blog about the new "Lighthouse" Fair.

02 November 2010

The Fine Print about a New Print

In 2008 I started a series of prints about fences and walls -- places, usually at international borders, where people have built structures designed to keep other people out. I started with the border fence being constructed at the U.S. / Mexico border and then I went on to complete a print about the Great Wall in China (both shown below).

The next print I had planned for the series was the separation barrier between Israel and Palestine, but I began to feel afraid of tackling such a huge and volatile topic. So I decided that I needed to stick closer to home, to work with material that I know in my bones and that I feel "qualified" to critique. I spent the next 2 years making the 15 Pilgrim prints.

Now I feel ready to tackle Israel/Palestine. But first some caveats. It may sound silly to say this, but I want to be clear that a single print can not no how no way even begin to encompass the complexity and the magnitude of the Arab/Israeli conflict. I am a non-Jew, a 21st century American gentile woman with only a passing understanding of the complex history of the Jewish people. There's a lot I don't know.

What I do know is this. I know the Bible from a childhood spent reading it. I know the history of World War II mostly through my father, who fought for 3 years in Europe. And I know my American Jewish friends, some of whom call themselves Zionist but most of whom do not. Most of all I know my own heart. So this print will reflect me and my heart's feelings about Israel's separation barrier. I am an artist, not a reporter and not a historian.

But this print can't be made without working with historical material. There is probably no area in the world with a deeper history than the area we now call Israel/Palestine. It has been settled continuously for tens of thousands of years, archeologists have found remains of very early human and Neanderthal creatures, and it is one of the oldest sites of agricultural activity in the world.

May my print honor both the sacredness of this land and the tragedy of this conflict.

27 October 2010

IFPDA Print Fair NY, 2010

The IFPDA Print Fair, which happens every November in NY City at the Park Avenue Armory, has become one of my favorite annual events. From Utamaro to Rembrandt to Chris Ofili, there are prints of all kinds on display from over 80 exhibitors. Lucky for me, Smith College Museum of Art sends a bus down every year so I don't even have to drive. The Armory Print Fair is a total printmakers' feast and could easily take up the entire day, but concurrently there's also the Editions/Artists' Books Fair at 548 W. 22nd St. in Chelsea. It's too much to see in one day, but I always try. Needless to say, I sleep on the bus ride home.

The Fair opens with a VIP preview on Wednesday, November 3rd from 6:30-9:00 and then continues through Sunday the 7th. I'll be there on Saturday and I hope I'll run into you! It's well worth the trip if you can make it. And I'll post some photos afterward.

25 October 2010

More from Seattle

Floor in the Seattle Public Library
Wanted to let you know that you can visit the Cullom Gallery blog to see some more photos from the "We Are Pilgrims" opening and the demo the next day.

It was great to meet some new people as well as some folks I've known for several years but only online. I got to meet Viza Arlington, who has been making some great white line woodcuts, and Brian Lane, the Seattle half of the famous Print Zero duo.

Thanks for coming out, everyone! The show is up through November 27 if you're heading to Seattle for the Thanksgiving holiday.

I love water.

19 October 2010

A Few Seattle Pix

Lynn and I were very remiss in our picture-taking while we were in Seattle for the "We Are Pilgrims" opening, but gallery director Beth Cullom took a lot of pictures (and she has a really nice camera) so I'll let you know once she's posted hers. Meanwhile, here are a few teasers.

This was the first time I ever had my name up on the wall in vinyl. A nice Helvetica-like font.


Lynn & I arrived early on opening night and I naturally gravitated toward Beth's awesome collection of books about Japanese woodblock prints. I could definitely spend several days just sitting here geeking out on those books. (And that's Eva Pietzcker's work behind me on the stand.)

The work looked great, well lit and dressed in simple wood frames. By the end of the night there were quite a few red dots!

Thanks, Beth, for a really nice opening.

11 October 2010

Woodblock Printmaker David Bull on NHK


I first encountered moku hanga in 2005 through a three-day workshop with New Hampshire printmaker Matt Brown, a workshop that was life-changing for me. However, I actually owe an even larger amount of my knowledge about moku hanga to a woodblock printmaker I've never met, Japan-based Canadian printmaker David Bull. NHK, Japan's public television network, has just produced a 30-minute segment about the life and work of this accomplished printmaker, so I thought I would take advantage of the occasion to write about David on my blog. David's 30-year love affair with this artistic medium has literally been the scaffolding upon which my own learning has taken place.

How is that possible? First of all, the computer makes it possible. In 1997, David launched the Baren Forum listserv and accompanying web site. The Forum began as a way for isolated woodblock artists and craftsmen around the world to compare notes, learn from each other, and talk shop. In the 13 years since it began, the site has become the go-to place on the internet for English-speaking Japanese woodblock artists, an absolute treasure-trove of information for anyone who is interested in exploring the medium outside of Japan. Although David handed over the reins of the Baren Forum site to a team of volunteer administrators several years ago, the site would not exist and would not be so comprehensive without his influence and expertise. I've learned 90% of what I know about woodblock printing through trial-and-error combined with strategic searching and question-asking on the Baren Forum web site.

In addition to technology, the other ingredient that makes my relationship with this printmaker on the other side of the world possible is David's own infectious enthusiasm. Notice it when you watch the video above -- David Bull loves Japanese woodblock and he has a deep desire to preserve this ancient craft in the midst of a rapid decline in trained printers and carvers and the accompanying decline in suppliers of wood, washi and tools. I believe it's this enthusiasm that gives David the energy to reach out over and over again to other printmakers around the world to share what he knows. Whether by facilitating contact between western artists and Japanese suppliers via the Baren Mall, where one can buy supplies directly from Japan, or  producing an e-book called Your First Print, a "highly practical and focussed guidebook that will take you - step by step - completely through the process of creating your first print," David conducts all these activities on top of the hours and hours he spends producing his own superb and finely crafted work.

In many ways David is a bridge between this exquisite but declining Japanese art form and artists in the West who are deeply interested in learning it. Congratulations to David on this wonderful NHK portrait of his life and work. Perhaps one day we'll meet in person.

04 October 2010

Show in Seattle!

The Pilgrims have made a long journey westward, and I'll soon follow them! I hope that all of you blog readers in the Pacific Northwest will join me at Cullom Gallery in Seattle on Friday, October 15, 6-8 pm, for the party celebrating the opening of my We Are Pilgrims exhibit. I'll also be doing a printing demo and talking about the making of the Pilgrim prints on Saturday, October 16 starting at 1:00 pm. I'm really excited to be returning to the wonderful city of Seattle and I can't wait to see Cullom Gallery's new digs. Hope to see you there!

01 October 2010

Babylonian Out Loud

Back in 2007 I made a print (Locusts In Babylon) about Iraq in which I alluded to the ancient Babylonian civilization that reigned in Mesopotamia 500 or so years before the birth of Christ. I used Cuneiform writing in the bottom portion of that print:

Locusts In Babylon

Today I found a web site that offers audio clips of scholars actually speaking some of the Babylonian and Assyrian texts from clay tablets that have survived over these many years. Babylonian and Assyrian belong to the Semitic family of languages, and are generally thought of as two dialects of a single language ('Akkadian') rather than as two separate languages. Check out some of the sound files here.

Language is an amazing thing. It carries so much of a culture and a people. Hearing an extinct language like this spoken aloud is like seeing light from a star that exploded a gajillion years ago. It's magical.

Speaking of extinct languages, I heard yesterday that linguist Jessie Little Doe Baird of Mashpee, MA, founder of the Wampanoag Language Reclamation Project, received a MacArthur Genius Grant to continue her work. Here is my previous post about Baird and her project and John Eliot's Bible.

27 September 2010

Kindred Artists: Ruth Cuthand

Back in January of this year I completed a print called Ten Little Nine Little Indians that addressed the small pox plague that wiped out an estimated 90% of the native population of New England in the early 17th century. The print features a large red representation of the small pox virus in the center. A few weeks ago artist Andrea Pratt, who blogs at Coloring Outside the Lines, left a comment alerting me to the work of Canadian artist Ruth Cuthand. I did some Googling and sure enough I found another kindred artist working with some of the same material I've been mining.

A Plains Cree (the largest group of First Nations in Canada) and Scots/Irish artist, Cuthand initially studied printmaking, but due to chemical sensitivities she turned to painting and multimedia. The image shown here is from Cuthand's recent "Trading Series" in which the artist uses finely crafted bead work to render microscopic views of the viruses that were brought to North America by colonization.

In a review of "Trading Series" by Patricia Dawn Robertson, Cuthand is quoted as saying, “I did an Internet search for the viruses, and they were just gorgeous to look at." I resonated with this observation and it made me think about the delicate line I often find myself attempting to walk when depicting harsh and difficult topics. It's easy to bash a viewer between the eyes with violent or shocking images, but I think that work which does so ends up appealing only to those who agree with the point of view. I think it's much more profound and powerful to find the beauty even in the horrific, to draw a viewer in with beauty and care and thoughtfulness and invite a more subtle exchange between the work and the viewer to occur. This is a difficult thing to achieve, but Ruth Cuthand has done it with this series. The full quandry of colonization is expressed here so simply: European trade brought new items that revolutionized Aboriginal life (like glass beads), yet was the cause of the decimation of many native peoples .

You can click this link to read more about Cuthand and see videos of her speaking about her work.

Thanks for the tip, Andrea!

23 September 2010

A New Web Site. Again.

Last Friday, after about a week and a half of work, I put the finishing touches on a new web site. The whole process made me think about the history of my site and how much things have changed since I first launched anniebissett.com.

My first site was built in the late 1990s, and it looks very 1990s. Here's a screen shot of the opening page:


It had rollovers in each of the four corners that would take you to four different areas of the site, and images would appear in the center white area. I designed it, but since there was no drag-and-drop type web software at the time, I paid about $2,000 to have a local tech company called Gravity Switch code it for me. I used that site for a number of years.

Then in 2004 I decided to take the plunge and make my own site with Dreamweaver so that I could update it more easily. I learned just enough of the program to make a very simple site that looked like this:


Nothing fancy, but I could add sections as I needed them and image sizes were flexible. I used this site until sometime in 2008, when I noticed that a lot of fine artists were using template hosting sites like Foliosnap, ArtCat, and Other People's Pixels. The sites all looked good and professional, and the idea of not having to mess around with Dreamweaver was very attractive to me.

So I set up this site using Foliosnap:


It's pretty elegant and simple. I liked Foliosnap a lot. The interface is easy to use, you can customize it quite a bit, and it's non-flash. I would still be using it, but I ran into a limitation once I published the "We are Pilgrims" book. The Foliosnap template wouldn't allow me to put any HTML links in the image descriptions, so I couldn't have a page for the book that would link to the Blurb site to purchase it. That was a deal breaker for me, so I looked around for an alternative. I settled on Other People's Pixels (OPP), which is cheaper than Foliosnap and almost as easy to use. OPP also allows for more text on each page and, since I'm a little long-winded, that works great for me.

Here's the front page of the new site, and here's a link to it.


We'll see how long this one lasts!

19 September 2010

Printmaking in a Cornfield


This weekend I took a drive through the pumpkin patches and apple orchards of Hatfield and Whately to Sunderland MA to see Mike's Maze at Warner Farm. Designed and cut by artist William Sillin, these huge cornfield mazes have been an annual tradition at Warner Farm since 2000. I was excited to hear that this year's maze was an homage to Andy Warhol the printmaker!


Here's the view from inside the maze. Fortunately, you get a map to help you get around. In this maze, there are 16 "printing stations" which, if you find them all, allow you to make CMYK reproductions of four famous paintings.


Each station consists of a wooden platform with a lid that holds a rubber stamp and an ink pad, plus a sign indicating the correct orientation for your printing paper.

At the entrance you're given two sheets of paper plus a board to use at the stations. When you find a station, you place your paper and the board in the orientation indicated…


Then close the lid and push down to print.



As with all printmaking, it's a lot of fun to watch the art emerge. Here's how mine looked after an hour or so in the maze:


14 September 2010

White Line Woodcuts in Cleveland - Mabel Hewit

Printmaker Ruth Hogan talks about white-line color woodcut techniques as practiced by Cleveland artist Mabel Hewit in this video from Cleveland Museum of Art. The exhibit of Mabel Hewit's work is on view now through October 24, 2010.

Click here for an article about the show with more background about Hewit's life.

13 September 2010

Call to Moku Hanga Artists

Wow, I don't know yet if I'll be able to swing this financially, but there's going to be an international moku hanga conference in Japan next spring, June 7-12, 2011. This morning I got an email announcing some of the details. According to the web site,
The conference will gather professional print artists, art educators and scholars in the field of woodblock printmaking to exchange current research information and experiences with Japanese traditional craftsmen, printmakers and print related art suppliers and toolmakers.

The conference will move between two locations, Kyoto and Awaji island (where the “Nagasawa Art Park Japanese Printmaking Program” takes place). In Kyoto there will be workshops, demonstrations and moku hanga exhibitions. The second half of the conference in Awaji will focus on lectures, panel discussions, presentations and exchanges with colleagues.

An email I received this morning notes that from now until December 18 applications are being accepted for a juried woodblock print exhibition of prints made in the waterbased moku hanga tradition or with contemporary materials that reflect moku hanga principles. There are PDF entry guidelines here.

I really hope I can go to this conference!

10 September 2010

Artists On the Mayflower

Sarah Peters, Dorothy May Bradford
It's an interesting experience to complete a body of work and then discover that another artist has covered the same material. I've identified five stages of response (take that, Elizabeth Kubler Ross!). My first-stage reaction always includes a tinge of panic (did one of us copy the other?), followed by some Google investigation, then a stage of comparing (hers is so much better than mine), some deep thinking, and finally delight. I had an opportunity to observe these stages in action a couple of weeks ago when Ed Winkleman announced the Winkleman Gallery show of Sarah Peters' Appeal to Heaven, which includes a set of drawings called "The Mayflower Series."

Peters' work and my Pilgrim prints are not at all similar. Her drawings are intricate layered pen and ink crosshatchings, resembling etchings. Most of her Mayflower drawings are depictions of ocean/water. I like them very much and I appreciate the thinking that I can discern behind the drawings. Peters has titled these water drawings with dates -- September 6, 1620 (the day the Mayflower left England), October 5, 1620, etc. -- taking us along on the grueling 66-day voyage. The churning waters and the occasional emerging human faces in the waves convey the terror that must have consumed the passengers' lives during their 66 days at sea and from what I can see on the Winkleman web site, Peters' strong assertive mark making could make one a little seasick up close. It's an effective approach, and very different from mine.

But what struck me immediately is that we both gravitated toward the story of Dorothy May Bradford. At the top of the post you can see Peters' portrait of Dorothy (the only portrait in her series), and mine to the right. My deepest feeling about this co-incidence?  I'm touched by the fact that both of us were touched by Dorothy's story. Dorothy's story is tragic, intriguing, mysterious, deeply sad, and I think highly resonant for a woman artist. I feel affirmed by seeing Peters' work. And delighted.

Sarah Peters, October 20, 1620, detail

Sociologist James William Gibson says
that when a culture is in crisis, the first response is often to go back to the creation myth to start over again. I don't know if Sarah Peters is a Mayflower descendant too (I assume that she is), but that act of reaching back to the American creation myth is the common thread I see in our work. We're each doing it in a different way, not just in terms of our medium of choice and our styles, but also in the audiences we each seem to be speaking to. But our questions appear to be the same. When I see that another artist is asking the same questions that I am, it makes me feel that rather than toiling away in my own little world I'm a participant in a larger dialog.

Sarah Peters' show at Winkleman Gallery looks fantastic, and if I lived in NY I would have spent the evening at the opening last night. The show is up through October 9, 2010. Leave me a comment here if you see it in person -- I'd love to hear your impressions.

08 September 2010

Medical Woodblock Prints

Chasing Measles Away - Utagawa, 1862
This tidbit came to me yesterday through Beth Cullom on Twitter (via Tokyo-based web site Pink Tentacle). The University of California San Francisco has an online gallery of 400 woodblock prints on health-related themes. Very intriguing images for me, given how I love all that sciency-stuff in my art.

A lot of the pieces, 80 in all, deal with the treatment and prevention of three contagious diseases -- smallpox, measles and cholera. A number of these types of prints show Buddhist or Shinto dieties intervening to prevent or cure the disease, such as the one below which is described as a talisman to ward off smallpox.
Talisman to Ward Off Smallpox: Daruma, Momotaro and Shoki, 1849
There are three or four of these smallpox prints in the collection, all executed in red ink. The red ink gave me a little chill, because when I created my Ten Little Nine Little Indians print about smallpox I used red to make the smallpox virus that "wraps" the Indian. There must be something red about smallpox. But then again, maybe there's just something red about the deity called Daruma.

A number of the prints also contain maps and depictions of foreigners because foreigners were thought to be carriers of disease. This is indeed sometimes the case, as happened in Colonial America when the native peoples were decimated by European diseases.

At any rate, I wouldn't mind having a fierce Daruma to protect me from disease.

06 September 2010

Dear Blog Readers

It's Labor Day in New England, the day that we typically think of as the end of summer even though technically it isn't. The nights are cool, some of the leaves are gaining a rosy hew, the thousands of college students that live here in this valley are returning, and I find myself evaluating my life and my projects as I always do at this time of year, noticing the projects I didn't begin or complete and figuring out the ones I want to commit to before the end of the year.

Okiie Hashimoto, 1967
In that spirit, I want to let you know that I feel a blog change coming on. I started Woodblock Dreams five years ago as a diary of my learning process, a place to record my experiments as I grappled with trying to master moku hanga / Japanese woodblock techniques. Up until now the blog has been very tightly focused on woodblock and only woodblock. Because of that focus, I know that many of you, my most loyal readers, are printmakers yourselves. I love that about you :)

So I want to reassure you that I will still be making woodblock prints and I will still be recording my process. But at this point in my development, I find myself also becoming interested in other art forms, interested in learning about the broader so-called art world, and interested in the artistic process in and of itself -- what it means to be not just a printmaker, but an artist.

For those of you blog readers who come here from the Baren Forum discussion list, what this means is that you will see only the posts that are about and are tagged "woodblock." If you would like to see and participate in the other posts as well, I'd suggest that you "follow" the blog by clicking the "Follow" button at the bottom of the right-hand column.

No matter how often you visit, and however you arrive here, thank you as always for following along with Woodblock Dreams.

xo Annie

29 August 2010

We Are Pilgrims: the Book!

I'm happy to announce that my "Pilgrim series" of woodblock prints is now available in book form! Printed on thick paper with a slight gloss finish and available in either hard or soft cover, We Are Pilgrims showcases all 15 woodblock prints from the series, which was created between November 2008 and July 2010.


As followers of this blog know, these 15 prints examine the lives of the first wave of colonists in North America and their interactions with the native peoples who already occupied the land. The book is 72 pages and includes short prose-poem text that weaves through the images, describing the stories that inform each print.


Click here to go to Blurb.com to see an online preview of the first chapter of the book (there are 3 chapters in all).

I look forward to hearing your feedback!

23 August 2010

Sometimes I'm Married, 2010


A week ago Lynn and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary and today I did this year's installment of the print series I call Sometimes I'm Married. As I've explained each year, I think of these prints as a gradual reduction series examining the state of my marriage. I plan to revisit this print every year around our wedding anniversary until all the states are one color.

Last Year's Map

This year I re-carved both blocks. One of the little Hawaiian islands had chipped off on the gold block, and the dark blue block had to be re-done to fill Maine back in. I had removed Maine prematurely in 2009 because the state legislature had approved a gay marriage bill which was scheduled to be enacted in August of that year. Unfortunately a group of citizens organized in opposition to the law, got a question on the November ballot, and the law was voted down. Bye bye Maine.

I also changed New Jersey from a maybe to a not. Last year there was some indication that same sex marriages from outside New Jersey might be recognized there, but at this point only "civil unions" are recognized. Since "civil union" is a made-up thing that means something different in each state, I ignore it. This map is about places where I'm married. Looks like I still need to carry my marriage license with me to most places when I travel.

I was pleased to have some company in my studio this morning while I printed. Artist and printmaker Will Tuthill came for a studio visit. We enjoyed meeting in person and talking shop. I especially liked talking about the process of developing an image. We found a lot in common about the ways we work. Thanks for coming, Will!

15 August 2010

Photos From the Loo Show

The opening of my show of woodblock prints at The Loo Gallery at Dreamaway Lodge was wonderful. Here are a few photos.
The lovely and romantic Dreamaway Lodge
Me and Lynn in our party dresses
Prints on the wall in the Loo

Liz Chalfin, director of Zea Mays, and Daniel Osman, owner of the Dreamaway
Leslie Ferrin, owner of Ferrin Gallery

Click here to see even more photos on my Facebook page.