Everybody’s an amateur photographer these days, using smartphone cameras and Instagram filters to create quick, easy, and brighter-than-life ‘art’. But in curator June Collmer’s latest exhibit, “The World of Printmaking,” she’s going to bat for a different aesthetic.
“It’s the lines,” the local photographer said in an interview at the Vinegar Hill Café in the Jefferson School City Center, where the group show of etchings, intaglios, lithographs, linoleum and screen prints hangs. “That’s why I like black and white photography so much—color distracts from the lines of a piece.”
A onetime printmaker herself, Collmer’s attraction to subtle beauty reveals itself in the works of all seven artists. Featuring everyday subjects in muted colors, the prints and etchings reject easy image creation in favor of painstaking translation—the physical world into tactile likeness.
Consider Nelson County printer Lana Lambert, who transfers sketches of local flora and fauna onto linoleum blocks. Using her industrial-era letterpress machine, she hand inks and presses each one of her works onto handmade paper.
Brooke Inman, a VCU adjunct instructor in painting and printmaking, likewise embraces the DIY approach. Her detailed prints balance white space and dogs, stones, and other commonplace objects.
Scottsville native Liz Cherry Jones uses a combination of silk screening and relief printing on paper and fabric in her ongoing series “Text and Textiles.” Each letter-pressed collage reflects components that recall colonial Americana, a time when wool was a work of art and technique triumphed speed.
Emily King also screen prints paper and fabrics, notably panels of traditional Japanese skirts. After studying abroad in Osaka, Japan, she recaptured memories as art, using Japanese letters and language and reprints of photos she bitmapped in Photoshop before printing. As she commented in her artist’s statement, “the rise of technology interjecting itself into art is a curious thing.”
Kelleyann Gordon combines art, tech, and nature with solar plates. Printed on glass or transparent acetate, original images are transferred to steel when a thin layer of photosensitive polymer hardens with exposure to UV light. Her piece “Salem Fair” showcases the process—one photograph, one etched solar plate, and one print—with three versions of a city densely packed around a Ferris wheel.
Ellen Moore Osborne creates intaglios, prints made with plates that have been etched by tools like steel or diamond-tipped needles. In the case of “Deafened by the Divine,” “Ironworks,” and “Idle Times,” she used nitric acid to etch images onto zinc metal sheets, then inked, buffed, and printed the resulting transfers by hand.
Rachel Singel’s intaglios are more abstract and almost vertigo-inducing. Every inch of her dense swirls—which look like twining branches of birds’ nests or cross sections of the world’s oldest tree—were etched by hand.
“People forget that you can use a small block that costs basically nothing and come up with something beautiful that can be reprinted,” Collmer said. She hopes exhibit visitors will imagine what’s possible right in their own backyards, not only in the use of everyday materials and subjects to inspire art, but in visiting the Jefferson School City Center as well.
During Collmer’s outreach, she visited nearby neighborhoods, going door-to-door in a way that, like her exhibit, invokes nostalgia for a simpler time. “People in the community have been very open, and that’s been a wonderful part of curating this,” she said. “Just getting to know people.”
“The World of Printmaking” will be on display at the Jefferson School City Center through August 31.