I fell in love with poetry as a child – the ability of a few words to evoke a world of feelings. I recognized the importance of the space created by the non-linear narratives of poetry, the emptiness that allows the reader to conjure up meaning. When I became a visual artist, I worked to create visual poetry – works of art that evoke emotional responses and create spaces for a multiplicity of meaning without being tied to a linear narrative.
This journey has taken me through figurative work into abstraction. I create in bursts of concentrated energy, letting the brush dipped in sumi ink move in sweeping gestures or staccato marks across the page. This mark making is intuitive, emotional and free of judgement. It can vary from large scale to tiny, intricate to loose. Once I turn the drawings into printing plates, I print them singularly or in layers, on papers of differing weights and colors. I coat some in beeswax, I tear and cut others. It is at this point that I begin to consider composition. I strive to balance loose, rhythmic, painterly movements with methodical organization of color, line, space, shape and texture. Random marks become abstract evocations of weather, hinted at figures, loose architectural renderings that reference a physical reality or evoke emotional and psychological states of being.
I think of my art making practice as a real collaboration between my creative impulses and the techniques I love so much. I don’t think I could express myself the way I want without the intervention of the etched plate, or the digitally manipulated drawing. This process heavy sequence of building an image is vital to how I make my art. At each point in a process there is an opportunity for creative intervention, and I exploit the way an image transforms through each stage. It requires me to rethink the formal aspects of the image many times over and keeps creating opportunities for me to imbue the image with emotional weight and meaning.
I began making artists’ books as a way to bring closure to a series of prints and to re-contextualize images from the past. I take a body of prints and reconfigure them into books that re-imagine the subject matter and present it in a new format. Long panoramas become stab-bound books; big prints folded into accordions reveal fragmented scenes; waxed Asian papers become translucent. In this way, I change a narrative and create a new viewing experience.
My studio practice is grounded in my desire to be mindful of the resources I consume in making my art. Therefore, I strive to re-use and upcycle as much as I can. This might mean using old printing plates in new ways, excavating old prints and turning them into something fresh, and working within the limitations of the papers and inks I’ve scavenged over the years. These parameters both challenge and free me.
Nearly 25 years ago I founded a printmaking studio dedicated to safer and non-toxic printmaking, Zea Mays Printmaking. The studio has grown from a small, local print shop into an international center for cutting edge, sustainable printmaking with a global reach through our in-person and virtual programming. This work has been a passion of mine and has introduced me to hundreds of printmakers over the years who inspire, educate and uplift me. I consider the work of building and nurturing this community as part of my creative practice. And though it takes time away from my own studio work, it gives back ten-fold in how I can connect with other artists and make a direct impact on the field of printmaking. It balances my need to make art with my desire to make a difference and contribute to the healing of the world.