I'm proud to announce that I have a solo exhibition up right now through May 21st at the Hammonds House Museum in Atlanta, GA. It's an expansive show, with both new and older work. It's an honor to be exhibiting in an historically black museum, that is also receiving funding to undergo renovations that will restore it to it's historic splendor.
Well this is exciting!! This year I was chosen to be an Art Matters grant recipient. I used writing the grant as an opportunity to hopefully acquire needed studio equipment. While I don’t know much about their process for choosing recipients, I do know that the board was unanimous in choosing me. What an honor! Even more exciting is that earlier this week, the plotter I needed for my work arrived. The quilted backgrounds that I design for most of my work is printed using an archival ink, large format printer. It takes a good hour to print each sheet, and no printer in town would do it for me because I wanted to print on my own paper. My friends, Keith and Chandra, of L9 Arts, were gracious enough to allow me to print in their studio when I needed to. They are busy and accomplished photographers, and I knew every time they let me print, meant time that they weren’t printing or working, and I would be over there sometimes all all all day. I am over the moon to have my own large format printer to experiment with. Thank you so much Art Matters.
As most of you know, I make large, narrative prints that address how stereotypes are negatively effecting people of color.
I’m making a little time to tangent for a hot minute on two new series. The first short series I’m tackling is work that addresses the exoticizing of women of color. In this series, I exaggerate the features that are most exoticized (besides obviously our skin color). Human hair that grows out of our head that somehow makes us exotic, therefore different in a way that’s unrelatable…which is absurd. In this series I’ll address hair as an exotic feature, our skin tones being described in food terms, and this notion that because of the color of our skin we are somehow more connected to the earth.
In another series, I’ll be addressing violence in the New Orleans community. If you think Chicago has had a bad year as far as murder in the city, per capita, New Orleans is worse…much worse. It bothers me. It bothers a lot of people. I’m fearful in this city, not kidding. The news tries very hard to make the violence seem that it relates to something else, like drugs or gangs, but more of it than is being said is random. People caught in the crossfire. Mistaken identity. Muggings “gone wrong”. It breaks my heart. This latest series isn’t about the fear of being caught up in the violence of the city, it represents loss. It’s just one way that one artist is trying to address the violence in New Orleans.
Many people are mystified by printmaking. What’s the process? How many processes are there? How do I label this process? Is it a drawing? Is it a painting? Are these copies? How? How? How? What? What? What? How the artwork is created can be by using a number or just one of these methods that are considered different types of printmaking: collograph, monoprint, monotype, etching (mezzotint, aquatint, and/or drypoint), lithography, silk-screen, relief (multi-block, linocut, woodcut, and/or reduction), papermaking, and bookmaking/bookbinding. In my work, I typically use three methods of printmaking: color-reduction relief, lithography and monotype. When I use lithography or color-reduction relief, I will edition my work. People often confuse the word “edition” with the word “copy”. When I make an addition of 5 for instance, I’m not making five copies of a piece of work. A “copy” is always generated from an “original.” To look at it another way, when a photographer prints 5 of a photo taken, she didn’t make “5 copies” of that photo. She printed 5 photos, making it so that there is an edition of 5. When I etch a litho stone, and ink that stone, and pull a print from that stone, every print is an original. I pull 10 originals, so I now have an edition of 10. No addition number more important than the other, and every edition identical to the one printed before it. Art buyers, galleries, and collectors put an arbitrary level of importance on the edition number. There is no significance. How I differ from a photographer or even an artist who prints relief using the multi-block method, is that they can “re-edition” their work. If a photographer for instance (I’m not picking on photographers, I promise! They’re just the most easily related artists to use for this purpose), creates an edition of 100 photographs for sale (so an edition of 100), as long as they still have the film/file the photo was created from (think of the film/file as the same as a block of wood that is inked and used to pull a print), they can, down the road or whenever, decide to re-edition that photograph for sale. It would be typically labeled so that the buyer knows it’s a re-edition, and what re-edition number as well as the edition number it is.
In my practice, I can’t re-edition my work. When I carve an image into a block of birch-ply, I only use one block of wood to create the image. I don’t use several blocks of wood, like a multi-block woodcut, to create an image. When I start out, I sketch onto the wood my composition with sumi ink. I then shellac the wood and use a sharp razor to take away the grain that is lifted once I shellac the wood. I do that several times. I then register all my paper/canvas to the woodblock for that edition (say 5 sheets of paper). After that, I carve away everything that I want to be white (or the color of the paper), and I print my first color. Let’s say, orange. I then carve away everything I want to stay orange, and print my second color…let’s say, blue. I do this with every color until I’m done. If I use black to add definition to the image, then my woodblock will only have the key-line, which is the last color printed. Every other color that I’ve printed, I would have carved away as I continued to print the image. Therefore, since I carve as I go, I can never re-edition the image. This method is also called, “killing the block”, or a “suicide print”. I essentially render the block useless when I’m done. If I had chosen to create an image using the multi-block method, I would’ve for instance had 4 blocks in front of me that are the same size. I would’ve sketched my final color (typically the black outline) onto one of the blocks, and carved that block only. I would’ve printed that block, using black ink, onto a piece of paper (likely craft paper of some sort), and then I would’ve laid that piece of paper face down onto one of the 4 blocks and ran it through the etching/monotype press to transfer the image onto that block as a reference. I would’ve done that to all 4 blocks so that the key-line is on every one as a reference. I then would’ve chosen which color each block will be printed. Let’s say I chose cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. I take the block that will be printed yellow, and I carve away everything except for what needs to be yellow OR also except for what I need to stay in order to create another color such as green when the blue block is printed on top of it in the process. I do this to every block, always considering how another color will look printed over it or under it as part of the design. I can proof the blocks, change the colors, carve away as I proof, scrap a block and start over if I made a mistake, etc. Once I’ve used all 4 blocks to print onto one piece of paper to create the image I’m looking for, I would edition that image. But since I used multiple blocks to create one image, I didn’t carve away colors as I printed, so I can re-edition the image down the road if I chose to do so.
I hope this post has helped to demystify how I create my work, and at least two different printmaking processes and the difference between them. I also hope that this helps to explain why printmaking is printmaking and not painting or drawing, or anything else but printmaking. And most of all, I hope this puts to rest this misconception that prints are “copies”. The lie that a print is a copy devalues the work of printmakers. There’s a lot of technical skill, alchemy, and patience that goes into all forms of printmaking. Printmakers can paint. Printmakers can draw. But we chose to print.
I was fortunate enough last year to be able to purchase my own press for my studio! Firstly, as a printmaker it's hard to run across or acquire the equipment that that you need in order to practice your medium. I've relied on residencies in order to continue working beyond grad school, but I even have to be selective with the ones I apply to because most of the few printmaking residencies that are out there don't have the equipment necessary to work large scale. And besides, it's usually hard to justify leaving home base for more than two weeks at a time as I get older and my responsibilities at home are increasing.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that one of the premier press manufacturers, Conrad Machine Co, allows artists to put presses on layaway! For any of you printmakers out there, this is awesome. It allows you pay very little at a time towards a press. Tom Conrad and his team were easy to work it, and the shipping process (which I thought would be nuts) was also surprisingly easy. I gathered a few strong friends and they uncrated and assembled the press, which arrived partially assembled. I feel so blessed to have access to a press. Now back to work!
I was featured in the "Editor's Pick" section of this month's New American Paintings. Considering, printmakers are often looked over in the Fine Art world, I was honored to be chosen. What a treat!
For a sneak peak at one of my spreads, head over to my instagram.
You can buy a copy of the New American Paintings magazine online or from a bookstore near you.