31 October 2013

Woodblock In Toledo, Ohio

I just learned of an exhibition at Toledo Museum of Art called Ebb & Flow: Cross-Cultural Prints that explores the global influence of Japanese printmaking in the 20th century. The exhibit consists of approximately 100 prints from both Japan and the west and examines the relationships between them. The show is hanging from October 11 - January 5, 2014. Luckily, if you're not near Toledo, the museum has an online digital catalog you can look at. It requires some bandwidth to get going, but it's well worth the wait.

In addition to the exhibition itself, woodblock artist Paul Binnie will be in Toledo for a talk, demonstration, and workshop. His talk and demo will be on November 21, 2013 and the workshop will take place November 23-24. Scroll down on this page for details.

30 October 2013

Headstones on Halloween

In preparation for my upcoming show, Welcome to Nonotuck, I've developed five designs based on drawings I made of colonial-era headstones at Bridge Street Cemetery, the oldest burial ground in Northampton, Massachusetts. I'll fill in more information later about the individuals for whom these grave markers were created (I'm a little strapped for time, as I hang the show next week), but for now here are the prints. I used a sumi ink wash on gampi, making just one of each design. Once the show is hung, I plan to make larger editions of each.

Jonathan (Hunt)

Phebe (Pomeroy)

Ebenezer (Parsons)

Dorcas (daughter of Ebenezer and Jerusha Clark)

William (Lyman)

28 October 2013

Boston Printmakers 2013 Biennial

Here are a few photos from the opening of the Boston Printmakers 2013 Biennial yesterday. These are a tiny fraction of the pieces that are on display. You can see all the juried work in an online slideshow here. Please pardon all the glare in these photographs -- plexiglass plus huge windows made glare unavoidable in most cases.

I made the two-hour trek into Boston with three other Zea Mays affiliated artists and our conversations, stimulated by a New York Times opinion piece about the arts economy, were wonderful brackets on the day.

The Biennial juror was Dennis Michael Jon, an art historian and curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Jon is a very approachable and warm person and he interacted easily with the artists at the brunch and opening.

The themes that I could make out were humor, art historical reference, technical innovation, mapping, and maybe the Blackwater Horizon disaster. My favorite Blackwater Horizon related print was this gorgeous reduction woodcut by Suzanne Chouteau.

This year's invited artist is Cuban artist Ibrahim Miranda. Here's a shot of Miranda talking about his large installation, called Mapas, with two visitors. The work is densely layered, with images printed on top of maps and other commercially printed ephemera.

I was pleased to meet and see the work of several artists I've known only online up until now. Elizabeth Busey was in town from Indiana and I enjoyed meeting her and her family. Above is Elizabeth's Breath Intertwined, a reduction linoprint.

Another online friend and mokuhanga artist, William Evertson, was at the show from Connecticut. Above is his Biennial print, Photobooth Kabuki 2. I was especially smitten with the embossed face in the background.

Charles Coates is another artist I've been acquainted with online who I was happy to meet in person. Charles came from Arizona for the opening. His large woodcut, which won the Boston Public Library Purchase Prize, was impossible to photograph in its entirety, but hopefully you can see the interesting and delicate effect he created by printing with white ink on top of sumi ink.

Boston-based artist Julia Talcott has a history similar to mine: she was a successful commercial illustrator who fell in love with printmaking. Her linocut monoprint, Portable Color Trap, won the Otis Philbrick Museum of Fine Arts Purchase Prize.

I've been a fan of Stella Ebner's work ever since I found her web site when I was first learning mokuhanga and looking for western artists using mokuhanga in new ways. Ebner seems to be working exclusively with screenprinting these days, but her prints still have a mokuhanga quality about them -- the inks look transparent like watercolor, and the color fields that make up her imagery still look to me like they could be cut from blocks. I also love her sense of humor (as did juror Dennis Jon, who mentioned it in his talk). This work is called Making Starry Night, a screenprint on two large pieces of Japanese paper.

Here are a few other artists whose work I particularly noticed but didn't photograph.

Diana Behl
Jenny Robinson
Renee Magnanti

There are a gajillion other great prints, too, so check out the slideshow.

22 October 2013

Working with Flea Market Frames

Framing for an exhibition of works on paper, as all my works are, is a time consuming and expensive proposition. My upcoming exhibit, Welcome to Nonotuck, includes 16 separate woodblock prints of varying and inconsistent sizes ranging from 4 x 7 inches to 21 x 29. To have them professionally framed would cost well upwards of $2000.

For obvious reasons, I decided to do my own framing. Because the prints I'll be showing are about early American history and because they're being presented at a history museum, I decided to use vintage/antique flea market frames as much as possible. I thought that doing so would evoke a sense of these prints having been collected over time and donated by different people, just as so many of the objects in the museum have been donated. I made a list of all my print sizes, grabbed a tape measure, and started scouring local flea markets and antique stores.

I didn't take photos of the process, but here's a list I generated of the pros and cons of using flea market frames:

  1. It's definitely cheaper than hiring a professional framer. I ended up spending a little over $600 instead of the $2000+ I would have paid a pro.
  2. The variety and patina of the vintage frames works well for certain kinds of artwork.
  3. It's fun going to flea markets.
  1. No custom sizes, so you have to take what you can find. I had to order custom frames for four prints that are very long and narrow. 
  2. Sometimes you find the perfect frame but it has a picture in it that a seller feels is valuable so they've priced it higher than you want to pay just for a frame.
  3. It takes a long time to collect all the frames.
  4. Every found frame has its own set of issues and problems to solve: some need repairs, some have no glass, some are not deep enough to accommodate glass plus mat plus foam core backing.
  5. All flea market frames need a good cleaning.
Then there's just the whole ordeal of framing 17 pieces. I'm not crazy about framing, nor do I have good equipment. I use a simple pull-style mat cutter with a straight edge (a real workout at large sizes) and I cut mat board and foam core with an X-Acto knife. I almost always ruin a mat or two, although amazingly I didn't ruin a single piece this time.

Do I have cuts on my hands from handling glass? Yes. Did I curse a lot as I discovered the quirks of each frame? Yes. Did I spill some wood stain? Yes. But I saved over a thousand dollars! So yes, I would do it again.

17 October 2013

Can You Paint on Fabric With Woodblock Pigments?

Guerra pigment suspensions, to be precise. I needed to make a banner/painting for my November show and I didn't know if I could paint on raw canvas with the Guerra pigment suspensions that I use for mokuhanga. So I tried it.

Here's the banner lying on my kitchen floor. It's about 5 feet x 5 feet, so in my 1200 square foot house, the kitchen was the best place to work on it. I had the drawing all done in pencil and was ready to try the pigments.

I used very watered-down colors, as I wanted the banner to appear old and somewhat faded. I fully expected that there would be some bleed, and I just hoped it wouldn't be too much. But as you can see, the bleed was very minimal. So this is an entirely new trick to do with Guerra pigments!

I was even able to paint lines. The canvas, by the way, was just fabric store canvas that I washed first before working with.

I'm going to hold back on showing you the design for now, but I can tell you that it's a map. Here's a shot of me putting in a hem this afternoon in the autumn sunshine on my back deck. (Sometimes the life of an artist is very very good.)

10 October 2013

November Exhibit at Historic Northampton

About a month ago I got an email about a sudden opening in the Contemporary Art at Historic Northampton program for the month of November. The organizers were looking for an artist with an already-made body of work who could tie the work in to the collection at the Historic Northampton Museum. I thought immediately of my Pilgrim series, so I fired off an email and within a couple of days I was selected to fill the opening.

Thus began a frenzy of activity in the midst of which I now stand firmly.

Speaking of standing in the midst, I'm calling the show 'Welcome to Nonotuck.' Nonotuck is a native American word that means "the midst of the river" and Nonotuck is the name of the place that became Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1654.

Below is an e-card with all of the information about the show. If you're in the area, I hope you'll stop in to see the show!