I recently ventured out to an exhibition at the Pyramid Atlantic Center in Hyattsville MD, a nonprofit contemporary art center fostering the creative disciplines of papermaking, printmaking, and book arts. The exhibition, entitled RELIEF, featured a varied array of meticulously crafted prints by local and national printmakers.
The massive assembled work by Melissa Harshman in the image above is a perfect example. Portrait of a Hermit at Sea by Brent Bond of Santo Press (below) draws us into the artist’s quirky narrative with a mixed media print. I love the juxtaposition of the uber serious Victorian gentleman as he sails through the air in a conch shell.
I’m rather partial to black and white prints such as the two works below – Johanna Mueller’s finely detailed Jackalope and Kill Joy’s Huaraches. Seeing the prints in person is a whole other experience – one can see the how deeply the ink has been embedded into the snowy white paper and see the raised outline of the image depending on the force used to impress the relief onto the paper.
Heather O’Hara’s three-color block print Red Balloon Coyote (below) is adorable. The resulting texture is particularly appealing and the delightful, subtle overlays vary from print to print.
Heather’s debonair coyote has not surprisingly found his way onto greeting cards. See more examples here.
The print-making art world is magical in that the print artist can create almost identical multiples of a given image. There are numerous techniques – lithography, etching, linocut, woodcut, letterpress, engraving and silkscreen being the most common. I’ve tried my hand at a few of these techniques with questionable results. Click on the links to see introductory videos in order to appreciate the complexity, patience and precision required to master any one of these process-oriented techniques.
One of the exciting features of visiting Pyramid Atlantic is the opportunity to watch print artists at work on the traditional letterpress or watching Pyramid’s lithography instructor preparing to ink her magnificent slab of limestone. This specific slab was one of a cache of 100-year-old stone lithography plates recently unearthed in a pit in Ohio!