Southern Graphics Conference 2012

The Southern Graphics Conference: Navigating Currents
New Orleans LA  March 2012

     I have just returned from the Southern Graphics Conference in New Orleans.  What a fabulous event!  I traveled with my colleagues from Ithaca College, Susan Weisend and Patricia Hunsinger, met up with Minna Resnick, and stayed with my friend and colleague Masha Ryskin from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Minna Resnick

Susan Weisend

Patricia Hunsinger

Masha Ryskin

Nicola Lopez
     We missed the keynote speaker Willie Cole, but we did get to hear Nicola Lopez speak about her work.  Her large installation pieces and prints are a strange mixture of science fiction, urban catastrophe, and organic growth gone wrong. Her mixed media approach imbues her work with exciting form and texture, combining some 2-dimensional elements with 3-dimensional structures. She uses different kinds of surfaces and media to compose a fantastical world of rigs, electric towers, piled cubes and boxes, tubes, and highways that seem to grow according to their own laws and idiosyncratic movements.  Marvelous stuff!  Please take a look at her website!

Taryn McMahon
     Another highlight was the Graduate Student exhibition at the Newcomb Art Gallery at the Woldenburg Art Center, which is part of Tulane University.  Two artists: Taryn McMahon’s show Tracking their Wondrous Transformationand Silas Breaux’s Site, were particularly interesting.  Taryn McMahon installation of floral shapes screenprinted on mylar, showed a different kind of growth pattern, as in the natural environment, forms grow over, under, and around each other in a chaotic dance of shapes.  They fall away from the wall by the pull of gravity, and some eventually meander to the floor of the gallery.  There is a playfulness and exuberance to these pieces, enhanced by the color palette of pink, white, grey, black, and olive green.   Though decorative, the large scale, overlaid forms, and transparency of the myler, builds a nuanced, graceful flow of form.

Silas Breaux
     Silas Breaux’s work explores texture, in both large collagraphs, and in an installation piece of printed myler and construction.  His restrained palette is mostly earth-toned and shows an energetic use of the print medium to exaggerate his mark-making abilities.  The large format of these prints help to enhance the typographic nature of these abstracted “sites”.  The installation piece is fantastic as well.  A canoe made out of pine slabs sits in front of the white printed mylar piece hanging on the wall. This large print registers the subtle texture of the wood pieces from the canoe. The long and thin pieces of mylar are arranged horizontally, row upon row, edge to edge, and framed with the same printed mylar all around this collaged textured piece.  The tactile sensation is visceral but subdued at the same time.  Actual texture and printed texture present a wonderful dialogue here. 

David Jones
     I scheduled a meeting with David Jones from Anchor Graphics, a non-profit printmaking studio in Chicago associated with Columbia College.  I brought some of my orchid prints with me and showed him my website, including some pieces from my other two large bodies of work.  He suggested that I try to contact architects and interior designers with some of these floral pieces.  They could be reproduced in a much larger scale for interiors and other architectural spaces. He thought the less layered, more simple forms would read more effectively in the larger scale.  He also said that I might explore social issues surrounding the patterns of kimonos to the role of women in Geisha traditions. I thought this was an intriguing idea that I hope to investigate.  It might be a way to bridge contemporary Western culture’s concerns around social justice to the traditional culture and art forms of Japan. How does the kimono function within geisha society?  How are kimono patterns determined?  How are the patterns printed on the silk?  These are all questions for further inquiry.  Lastly, he agreed that I should further investigate the ideas of my work, and not confine myself to print media alone. Please take a look at Anchor Graphics website. 

Open Portfolio
       Often the highlight of the conference, this event allows hundreds of printmakers to show their work. I love to see what my contemporaries are doing. Students, faculty, and independent artists, all share a large room to present their portfolio of prints. This year the only draw back was the narrowness of the tables they provided. Those of us who brought large prints had a difficult time displaying them. Nonetheless, I was delighted to have the Director Carol Pulin of the American Print Alliance approach me about doing an article about my work in the Graphics Impressions Journal! She was especially infatuated with my encaustic orchid pieces. I am waiting to hear back from her. The American Print Alliance is a consortium of many non-profit organizations including: ARPRIM Québec, Baren Woodcut Forum, Boston Printmakers, California Society of Printmakers, Honolulu Printmakers, Los Angeles Printmaking Society, Maritime and Atlantic Printmakers Society, Mid America Print Council, Monotype Guild of New England, New York Society of Etchers, Pittsburgh Print Group, Print Arts Northwest, Printmakers of Cape Cod, Printmaking Council of New Jersey, and Southern Graphics Council. This will give my work much broader exposure. WOW.
     Professor of Art, Hui-Chu Ying from the University of Akron has invited me to participate in a traveling exhibit of mini artists’ books. The edition of 5 books will become part of the permanent collection of the Southern Graphics Council International and University of Akron, and travel national and internationally. This seems like a great opportunity to do another artist’s book!

To read more about the American Print Alliance, see

and read more about Hui-Chu Ying click on
Vendor Fair
        One of my favorite parts of the conference is the vendor fair where the best manufacturers of paper, inks, tools, and other miscellaneous but necessary stuff for printmaking can be purchased, often at a discount. I spent a lot of time talking with Paula Roland about the Roland HotBox, a device she created to keep encaustic at the right temperature for melting without causing dangerous vapors. I bought her wonderful CD that shows all tricks she uses in creating her encaustic monotypes. I can’t wait to see it! I also bought three mini random-dot roulettes for intaglio.

Survey of Contemporary Printmaking
         Five curators of the Print Summit 2010 exhibit presented a panel discussion during this conference to discuss the selection of artists for the exhibit, which was held in the Wellington B. Gray Gallery at East Carolina University. Some of the top names in printmaking were present: Beth Grabowski (with whom I had dinner later in the evening!), Professor of Art at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and co-author with Bill Fick of Printmaking, a Complete Guide to Materials and Processes, Bill Fick, R.L. Tillman, Rochelle Toner, Matt Rebholtz, and Matthew Egan. They accompanied their slide presentation with the newsy published catalog of the show, which is a fantastic collection of some of the most interesting work being done in printmaking. I am especially excited to see the range of media that is being used by contemporary artists, pushing the boundaries of the print and incorporating digital technologies with traditional methods. The subject matter shows a wide range, but I am most attracted to artists like Californian Kevin Bowman, Nicole Hand from Kentucky, Shelley Thorstenson from the Tyler School of Art, Laura Berman from the Kansas City Art Institute, Sean Caulfield from the University of Alberta, and finally Lynne Allen from Boston University. The catalog is one of the best surveys I have seen about contemporary printmaking.

The City of New Orleans
        The conference was held in the Sheraton Hotel in the downtown area of the city. We of course were within easy walking distance of the historic district, and easy walk to the Warehouse Art District. It was also located a short shuttle ride to Tulane and Loyola Universities. We had a glimpse of the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations throughout the city—green hats, green shirts, green pants, green dresses, green and gold beads, and lots of beer drinking! If you can image a mix between a massive high school prom with Halloween costumes only in green, you can get the idea of what this parade of characters looked like. This was not my favorite aspect of the city though. The architecture, on the other hand, was fascinating. Elements of Spanish and French influence graced the exteriors, and there was a strong feel of Europe, in terms of the narrow streets, jumbled buildings, open doorways to the sidewalks, with music coming from open windows. It definitely had a magical quality. We visited the famous flea market where exotic alligator heads are lined up like trophies, pralines are sold in abundance and handmade jewelry vendors show off their beautiful silver and corral designs. The sense of history throughout the city was evident. The effect of the hurricane is still seen as well. The area of ninth ward was especially desolate and quiet. Our cab driver Chris told us that his home was completely wiped out by the flooding, and his insurance company is still expecting payments on the property even without the house on it! Many people are still suffering here. Here are a few images from the city:

Next Year in Milwaukee
     Next spring the conference will be in Milwaukee when I hope to take some of my students with me. I will encourage them (and discipline myself) to participate in the themed portfolio exchange with an edition of 10 prints. I look forward to connecting with my fellow printmakers and getting a view of another American city.

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