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Category: Printmaking (page 2 of 17)

Work in Progress: Martín Getsemany Sánchez García

On September 26, 2014, forty-three students from the Raul Isidro Burgos Normal School in Guerrero, Mexico, were loaded by police into unmarked vans and driven away. The students have not been seen since. Widespread searches have discovered many mass graves in the state of Guerrero, but only one body has been positively identified as that of a student.

The kidnapping of the students sparked mass protests throughout Mexico. It epitomized the corruption of the government and the use of money and resources from the so-called war on drugs against average citizens rather than against the drug lords.

As part of the protests, artists around the world created – and are still creating – portraits of the missing students. You can see some of the artwork here and here and here.

I’ve been working on a portrait of one of the students, Martín Getsemany Sánchez García, as part of the Printmakers for the Ayotzinapa 43 project.

My idea was to make a print that looked like a blackboard, to honor the chosen profession of these students. I made full-bleed monoprints that more or less look like slate with swipes of white to look like erased chalk.
Printing the chalkboard background

Martín is carved out of linoleum, but the image is based on a loose pencil sketch; I wanted him to look like a portrait drawn in chalk. I like the unintended consequence that he looks rather ghostly, or like a photo negative. I think it evokes the mystery still surrounding the whereabouts of the students.
Portrait of Martin

For his name, I also wanted it to look like somebody had written it on the blackboard. I didn’t want it to look like my handwriting, or even like any North American handwriting. We have a different style of script than most Europeans or South Americans use. So I wrote an email to my friend Jacques in France asking him to write out Martín’s name and send it to me – which he very kindly did, even though he thought the request a little bit odd. But he knows artists are eccentric types.
Martins name written out

I had meant to transfer Jacques’ writing as a trace monotype, but for white ink to show clearly enough against a dark background it needs to be applied heavily – which resulted in an illegible mess.
trace monotype failure

Now I am hurriedly carving a block to print Martín’s name.
Name reversed for carving

The first showing of some of the Ayotzinapa prints will be next Sunday, May 17, at the Guelaguetza festival in Santa Cruz.

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

I began this set of prints a couple of years ago, during the uprisings of the Arab Spring. I was excited by the impulse of millions of people to rise up and speak out demanding a true role in government, or at least a recognition of their basic human rights and dignity. And I was struck by the images coming out of the region. They were very strong, raw, forceful, and it seemed that the same themes repeated in each country. There were the mass protest marches, the over-reaction of the police or armed forces and subsequent bouts of rocks versus bullets, and the angry mourning over the dead.

During the time it took to carve the first layer of color, however, most of the uprisings had turned sour. It seemed oppressive military dictatorships were overthrown only to be replaced by different (sometimes military, sometimes not) dictatorships. I suppose it was naive of me to think lovely participatory democracies would spring up pure and entire, like Athena from Zeus’ head, but one had hoped. Dismayed, I set the series aside.

And then there was Ferguson.

I watched the news and saw the angry mourners, the mass protests, and the over-reaction of the militarized police, and it dawned on me that I was seeing the same pattern yet again.




* * * * * *
This set of new prints will make their debut at Open Studios this weekend. My studio will be open for visitors both Saturday and Sunday, October 4 & 5, 11am – 5pm as part of Santa Cruz county’s Open Studios Art Tour. The address is 451 Tuttle Ave. in Watsonville, and I will be conducting printmaking demonstrations each day. Come on out and see some art!

California Dreamin’

January 1 will mark the 20th anniversary of my arrival in California. This New Yorker had trouble adjusting at first: roses in January? green hills in winter and brown hills in summer? It was a very different world than I was used to.

What made me finally fully appreciate my new state was a long slow bike ride. The 1999 AIDS Ride took me (and several thousand other bikers) through miles of rolling golden hills and steep valleys and dramatic coastline. I especially fell in love with the tawny hills – the shapes, the contours, the lonely oaks casting a circle of shade!

I’m not doing long-distance biking any more – I’ve replaced that with an even slower mode, long-distance hiking – but I still love exploring the small less-trafficked roads of California. And I’ve started a series of prints celebrating them.

I began with I-5. Not that the Interstate is small or has little traffic! But I love its wide horizontal views, and the odd human constructions that cross or follow it: the aqueducts and high-tension wires.
I-5, CA
I-5, CA

Next up was a favorite turn of road in Napa, on Hwy 29. As you leave Napa, just after the road to Sonoma, the road curves to the left, and there is a vineyard and a line of eucalyptus trees in front of you. The land lies low beyond, so the trees are silhouetted against the sky creating a beautiful pattern of positive and negative space.
SR29, Napa
SR29, Napa

Closer to home, just north of Davenport, Big Basin State Park meets the ocean where Waddell Creek empties into the sea. Dramatic cliffs tower over the highway, and there are usually para-surfers and hang gliders taking advantage of the upward wind drafts. It’s big and bold and beautiful and kind of quintessentially California. It’s also one of our favorite beaches for walks and treasure hunting.
SR1, Waddell Creek
SR1, Waddell Creek

The newest highway print celebrates my new home town of Watsonville. If the midwest is the breadbasket of the world, Watsonville is the berry basket. Field upon field of strawberries, raspberries, and boysenberries climb the hills that surround the valley. Often the berries are protected from the intense sun by large tents, similar in shape to old Quonset huts. And rows of corn or sunflowers act as windbreaks for the berries and for the workers who labor under the tents.
SR129, Watsonville
SR129, Watsonville

These prints are small, 4″ by 6″, and done quickly. I want the cumulative effect to be that of a sketchbook – quick notes of a specific place and time. I’m looking forward to my next road trip and the chance to make another California print.

Our Lady of the Redwoods

Our Lady of the Redwoods is a print I was hoping to have ready for the Open Studios Art Tour last year – but here it is, ready for this year’s Open Studios instead. I like the idea of local deities who live in the rocks and rivers and everyday places, and combined that idea with an image of the virgin and child.

The moment of truth, pulling the paper off the block for the first time.
The moment of truth

So far so good…
So far so good

And hooray! The print is just fine. 🙂
Our Lady of the Redwoods

This will be my selection at the Open Studios Preview Exhibit at the Santa Cruz Art League. I bought the frame today; now I just have to let it dry and put it all together.

Our Lady of the Redwoods is 24″ tall by 5″ wide. I’m finishing up a companion piece, Our Lady of the Slough, and hope to have that done for Open Studios as well.
Press and print

Open Studios will be held on October 4 & 5 and October 18 & 19. I’m in Watsonville now; come see my new digs!

Progress in the Studio

Part of the excitement of buying a new house has been setting up my new studio. The garage is mine, all mine! And after several months of unpacking boxes and rearranging things to make it all work (more or less), I once again have a functioning print studio. Hooray!

I took several days off work last week to celebrate and catch up on some prints. I haven’t really done anything artistically-speaking for almost a year, and I was itching to get at it. Here’s a video of me pulling a print, as I finish up some editions.

Some notes as to what’s going on here.
1. I listen to loud music when printing. It keeps me from being distracted by random noise.
2. I work with the garage door open because the light is a kazillion times better that way. And I can work that way year-round, since this is California
3. I keep a rag in my back pocket for small clean-ups as I go along.
4. There is a pile of pre-cut paper in a box at the end of the press.
5. The piece of mat board keeps the felt blankets from pushing into the cuts on the blocks, so the edges of the image stay crisp.
6. That’s a giant baseball glove on the back of my t-shirt.
7. I love my press!
8. I’ve switched to using a drying rack instead of lines strung across the ceiling, due to the layout of the space. It’s placed close to the open door to maximize air circulation.
9. The second song is Yell Fire by Michael Franti & Spearhead. The first bit of music? Don’t know – I have a lot of random stuff on my iPad.

I have lots of ideas of how to continue to improve my work space, but for now I’m just happy to be back to work again.

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