Gallery 224

Artists in Residence | Featured Artist | Studio Gallery | Workshops | Programs

 

 

March, 2017

Featured Artist

Berel Lutsky

Berel Lutsky was born in Buffalo, NY and raised in Milwaukee, WI. He earned his BS in studio art with a concentration in printmaking from UW Madison, and his MFA in studio art with a concentration in printmaking and drawing from UW Milwaukee. He has taught at several UW Colleges, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Carroll University in Waukesha, and the Avni Institute in Israel. In addition to his formal education he has worked as a printer at the “Fishy Whale Press” in Milwaukee WI, the Tel Aviv Artist’ House Printshop, and has presented workshops and done residencies at the Jerusalem Print Workshop. He is also the one of the organizers of the biennial Really BIGPRINTS!!, a street roller printmaking event held at UW Manitowoc which attracts artists  from all over the state, and the USA. His work has been exhibited locally, regionally and nationally and is in public and private collections in Israel, Belgium, Japan and the US. He is currently Professor of Art at UW Manitowoc where he teaches drawing, design, photography, printmaking, and painting.

During his residency at Studio 224 he will be printing and binding a book of photogravures entitled "Black Landscapes". The images will be developed from the photo series of the same name, a selection of which can be viewed upstairs. Black Landscapes reflects a relative landscape from an ominous and often mobile point of view. It is a landscape of possibilities, not all of them good ones; as the CO2 levels rise, and the climate warms. An edition of 10 hand bound books, each with 16 photogravures, additional hand printed text pages and a colophon will be made. Photogravure from polymer plates is an update of a much older printing process which was largely abandoned by printmakers, and ultimately the printing industry, due to the highly toxic materials required. Advances in technology have now enabled a non-toxic path for artists to safely re-engage in a truly unique imaging process.

Visit Berel's website at www.artsinmilwaukee.org/profiles/962/

 

 

A Conversation with Berel Lutsky

by Don Niederfrank

I'd like to talk about art and politics. How do you see art having a political role? I'm wondering if there are ways that art is more truthful than language? If visual communication can be more truthful in some some ways than the written word.
I would say they compliment each other in some really important ways. Words are important and the visual is important, and sometimes when the words and visual come together it's even more important.

Like in really good posters.
Or...yeah, like in really good posters. Also in a lot of contemporary art. There's a long tradition of that. So there's a really famous painting in the city hall of Siena. The chamber of nine, where the executive committee of Siena of the city state met. It was painted in the fourteenth century. And it's called the Allegory of Good Government, the Allegory of Bad Government, and the Effects of Good Government and the Effects of Bad Government. It's a fresco series, and it basically covers three sides of the room. It's allegorical figures of good government and classic figures of peace and justice. And figures of bad government—all these demonic figures, image of tyrant with devil’s  horns advised by a goat. There's the good government where everything is going well, everyone is happy and the town is prosperous. And in the other fresco the countryside is on fire, and women are getting raped, and it's bad. The painting celebrates the common good. And I find it really telling that this elected executive council commissioned this painting. It's notable for few things, but it's one of the first paintings outside the Church that didn't have to do with the Church. It's about the principle of the common good as  the root of civic engagement. It makes numerous connections with values and morality—some classical, some humanist. There are connections with Dante, and notably with one of  his mentors in the late twelfth century when the Church itself through St. Francis came out with idea that the common good was something important. With the rise of humanism and the republics in Italy, this idea moved from the background to the foreground. So I find it telling that they chose to have this on their wall because this is where they were making decisions, and it's staring them in the face and, in effect saying: “Every time you vote on something, remember  this.”

I knew about the painting but the first time I got to see it was in June of 2012 after the recall election. I'm looking at this thing, and I'm thinking, “You know, this is what's gone. This is what's missing.” I've been to the State House in Madison. What's on the walls there is nothing even close to this message. In one of the chambers is a treaty scene where basically the Indians are giving up their rights. What's the message here?

Actually, I talk about this painting a lot. There's this program called “Scholar for Life” at the Two Rivers public library I've participated in a couple of times. And one of the talks I gave was on this painting, and I titled it “A Lesson in Civics from the Fourteenth Century.” Of course, it did get political at the end of the talk...”

Well, of course.
The long answer is, the visual has been involved in politics for quite a bit. The visual with the word is always more potent.

And it may say something as well about people in our time, whether it's walls in a corporate headquarters or in a public building, what people choose to put on walls, even what people choose to put on their walls at home. So art can be political in its truth.
Yes. The politics of it change rather radically in the early 1800s. Basically, for the longest time artists were working for the people in power, and they made images for the people in power, so there wasn't a whole lot of room for being subversive there. It's not until post-Enlightenment that artists started making art out of their conscience. That's where you start to see things becoming more political. It starts with one branch of the Romantic artists. And once you get into Realism and Modernism you get artists are making art not necessarily because they're getting paid for it. And art instead of supporting cultural homeostasis became an agent for change.

Are there artists that you would point to in particular?
As agents for change?

Yeah.
Starting with some of the Romantics where they turned their wonderful skills of portraiture to making portraits of peasants and workers. It was still sort of romanticized peasant. Turner did some really hard-hitting paintings about the slave trade. There was a lot of political art happening around the French revolution.

Oh, yes.
So Gericault, Delacroix and a lot of the neoclassists. They were usually working for the people in power still, but they were also acting in a very fluid situation.

I think of paintings of Liberty leading, and some of this is real obvious, and then maybe some of the later was more subtle.
Right, but both of those paintings were bought by the French government and put in storage.

Gericault's Raft of the Medusa... they didn't want anyone seeing them. They were bought and warehoused for quite a while. There's always been that interplay, but it doesn't really come into fruition until the Realists. Honoré Daumier made a lot of very pointed political statements. There's always been a certain amount of satyrical art, but it wasn't really dealing with social change. Sometimes there were people taking sides of factions in the Church, but it's really with the Realists, the French Realists like Courbet and Manet that artists started to do more work politically. Then you start seeing it in that wonderful tradition of poster art in the Russian revolution and then oddly enough Poland. Poland has this absolutely fabulous culture of poster making. And it still is a strong country for making visual statements. The artist as being against the establishment the starts to come into its own post-Realist France. It's there, and it was part of the Modernist tradition for a while. Then the High-Modernist pushed the words aside and said, art has to be about art.

In the post-modern period from about 1960 on, anything goes. And then words and text come back into it in lots of different ways. And art starts to become more about information. It's one of the challenges about being an artist—and it takes a while—but it's not about making pretty pictures all the time. There needs to be something else going on there. In some of the work that I have here the images are pretty or interesting or engaging, but there's always something else going on.

Yes.
It's part of who I am and what I do. The answer's Yes, there's always something else going on. Even with or without a statement, in the work that I find is most successful, it asks questions. It's visually pleasing, but then it tries to ask a question at the same time.

I want to ask about teaching. What can and cannot be taught about art. I know you can do art history—here the facts, here is the timeline, and here are the pictures that go with the timeline and so forth. But when you're teaching people to do art, people who have the aspiration of becoming an artist some time or see themselves that way, what do find that you cannot teach them, what do you find you can teach them? And then what's difficult and what brings you joy?
I can't teach them what they don't want to learn. I can teach anybody how to draw. I really can. There's a certain skill set that goes with drawing and a way of looking at things and working with things. And I can teach that. It's just like anyone can learn to start playing piano. But I don't know that I can teach them to be an artist, if they don't want to learn.

If all they want to do is learn how to draw, I can teach them how to draw. If all they want to learn is to learn how to work a camera, I can teach them how to work a camera. That's all technical things and craft. I can teach that with no trouble at all. I can show them the way to be an artist, but they have to want to learn that in the first place.

Say more about this “way.”
The way to be an artist? I can only do that by personal example or by asking them the questions I ask myself.

Oh, right. That makes perfect sense.
I get very personal joy out of drawing. So there is that personal joy, but I can work on something all afternoon and say, “Well, this is ridiculous.” It was fun, but meh...

Is there a tension between product and process here? The valuing of each?
I can make stuff. I can always make stuff. And some of it's better than others. Sometimes you're on and sometimes you're off. You can say the same thing about a professional musician. You go to a concert and whoever is playing, you can tell that they're “on.” And you can also hear someone and they're skillful, but they're not really on.

I can relate to that with preaching.
So that's part of being a professional, and you can't be on all the time, but you want to try to be.

At the colleges I only teach the first two years. When I was working at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, I was working with seniors and people who were at the end of their years at school. And I would challenge them. “Okay you can make pretty pictures, so what? Make it about something.” I also work like this with my photography students. There was a well-known photographer who found a box of negatives and prints from images he had made in the 1970s of a skating rink. He had this box of six hundred negatives and prints and he revisited them and narrowed it down to a group of forty for an exhibit he had about 2 years ago. So I say to my students: “Here are these forty images. It's very clear they're about something. They're not just about being there. So choose an image and tell me what it's about and how you know this. What has the photographer done. What do you see? This is a person who has gone back and looked at some work that he had done when he was much younger, much less experienced, really just learning things, gone back with a practiced eye and out of this box of six hundred images he's got forty good ones. “What has he done here? What's he looking at? Is there a common thread? Is there something about what the people are doing...” is it a technical or  compositional choice? Then I send them out to the Manitowoc farmer's market. I say, “Okay, I don't want pictures of the farmers' market. I want pictures about the farmers market...

That is absolutely the difference between expository preaching—This is what scholars have said about this passage and—This is why this passage brings me to tears.
Sure.

There's a witnessing. There's a way art says, “This is what I saw.”
There's a really famous image by Pulitzer Prize winner W. Eugene Smith of a woman holding her deformed daughter in a bath in Minimata, Japan.

Mercury.
Mercury poisoning, yes, we look at that, and I say, “This image won a Pulitzer Prize. We know that it's a good photograph. What is it about? How is W. Eugene Smith using his skills to make us understand what it's about?” He makes a bunch of clear photographic choices as an artist. The pose itself echoes The Pietà.

Oh, of course.
He uses very Baroque lighting, the single source from the side. In the Baroque period that was often the light of God. These are paintings that even people who don't know much about art can reference, and almost everybody knows the Pietà. It's very artful. And it's about a lot of things on a number of levels. It's about the mercury poisoning; it's a mother holding her child. And the really wonderful thing about the Pietà is that it's so unreal. The scene itself could never have happened. It was something that was made up in Medieval Germany actually.

Really?
The first Pietà shows up there. Jesus was Jewish, descended from a line of priests, the family would never be allowed to handle a body.

And the Romans weren't about giving bodies back to families.
Exactly. The second thing is Jesus is thirty-three when he died, and Mary looks like she's sixteen. The whole thing seems almost weightless. But people go, “Oh, it's so real.” No, it really isn't. If you think it's real then you're really missing the point. Michelangelo takes these several tons of stone and makes them weightless. What a wonderful thing, right? W. Eugene Smith is evoking the holy through association with the art of Michelangelo, and that is reminding us that (the poisoning) is at least partially our fault in a way and significantly tragic in its own way.

This is how I've seen art. That there are two elements. This craft that can be learned.
Yes, it's call the grammar of the making. If you're going to be a trained artist, you don't get away without knowing that.

Then there's this other thing. I wouldn't have seen.
That's a perennial argument. I don't know how to answer that. I had a friend in grad school who as a research project asked people to describe a tea bag. Artists, non-artists. Expecting maybe that the artists would see “more” and it was inconclusive. From the artists I know, some are really odd, quirky people and some are just straight arrows, pretty down-to-earth. So I think there is no rule that artists see more than others.

I have a long time acquaintance who's a photographer, and I think, “I don't see what they see.” But part of that, I think, is the practice to get the skill set.
But even a skilled photographer never says, “I got the perfect picture.” That never happens, almost never happens. Once you capture that image, you then have to really work at it. And that's been true since photography was invented.

There's editing that goes on.
Right. People have a very strong misconception of the perfect moment. I purposefully turn that on its head a little bit in my own work. The images that I have up in the Boerner Mercantile building—most of those were made from my car going seventy miles an hour, and then seeing what I've got at the end. Then I can take that and I have a particular vision of what I was working with, but once I got those images it took a lot of work to get them into the form where I could put them on the wall.

What I'm thinking with regard to photography is that there's an intentionality both before and after. There's this moment the film is exposed, but there's an intentionality about bringing the film to this particular situation, and some intentionality afterward. So it can be about the subject, but it's also about the artist.
It can be. You can probably make that connection even if it's a straight up commission. There's artwork where someone with money says, “Make me one of these.” The artist says, “Okay.” And how much of the artist is in there or not may be debatable. I don't think there's a fixed point. I think there are artists who do things because they want to get paid. I don't denigrate that in the least. If it's done skillfully.

Even that's about them.
It's about them in some way, yeah.

Let's go back to talking about teaching. What do you find are the most difficult and most joyful part of the teaching you do?
The difficult part is I teach at a public university, and my hardest thing is people who are just there because they need the class. I'm a business major, but I need this class. Okay, fine, but for this time period engage. Engage. You'll learn something. You don't want to be an artist, fine, but engage—you're going to learn something. I think that's my biggest frustration. You're here. Be here. Be here and do it. It's very difficult to get a C in my classes, because I don't let you. Unless you really choose to get a C. You can fail. But if you're engaged, you will not get a C because I will push you and you won't get a C.

I don't like grading, but I do it. It's something that I don't look forward to. Most of the time people know what they are doing. I tend much more not to work with summative critique but instead use formative critique. I try to build this into the projects I have the students work on. At an interim point they're going to put it up for everyone to look at or for me to look at. It's not done yet. It's like an English professor working with a draft. The old school is summative critique and half the people go home feeling great and half the people go home feeling like crap. And that doesn't help anybody.

What's the joyful part?
The joyful part is when you can put something up on the wall, and it looks good; it's doing something. The other joyful part is—and I get people involved with all different skill levels and experiences—and I see and they see that while we've started there but now we're here. That's joyful. Sometimes I don't know until later on. I get these letters from former students who say “By the way, thank you.” I didn't realize it at the time, but okay. That's the joyful part. That's where I get the most pleasure from teaching.

I also like working with younger students. I like working with 18, 19, 20 year-olds. That keeps my head from getting, you know... I have to look at new things, look at them differently. That sort of keeps me up-to-date.

I have a small gallery at the campus and put up student work at the end of every semester and they get appreciation from their peers. It's a good feeling.

Let's talk about you for a little bit. Did you do art as a child?
Not really. I kind of came to it as not fully formed adult. I think I took one watercolor summer class in high school. I just kind of did it. Then my first semester in college I took an art course for non-art majors, a studio course. And it was intellectually the most challenging of all the classes I was taking.

Because it was the other hemisphere of your brain?
It was probably a complicated mix of things. I was taking a sociology class and Native American history class. It was classes that if you were semi-aware of the world... I didn't have to work too hard at them. I had to work really hard in the art class. I made myself work really hard.

So why didn't you walk away from art and never go back?
I like to be challenged. Art was something I was really curious about, and there was something here that I felt that I personally needed to look at. Probably because it was going to piss my father off, also. I think that was part of it. And it did. I came to it with almost no skill set when I started. My first semester as an art student was the traditional foundations drawing and design, and I struggled. If something's difficult it never pushes me away. My own personal nature is I try to rise to the challenge. That sounds really noble, but it probably annoys people more than anything else. The skills developed and I got into it really strongly.

The second part was getting into printmaking. After my first printmaking class I was really kind of hooked on it.

Let me ask about printmaking, because all I really know about printmaking is that it's this big thing that makes prints. So when you make a print you're designing something that's going to be 4x3 or 10x12 or run over with a steamroller, various things—that that's a different thing than something that's going to be a painting within a wooden frame.
No. It's actually about embracing the oxymoron of the original multiple. In other words, you're making something, you're creating something that from the beginning is not a reproduction of a drawing, not a reproduction of something else, but is something that was designed to be a multiple.

Oh, for there to be multiples of. Got it.
So in addition to being able to do the drawing, painting, photography or whatever to create the image, you have to bring the craft of a printmaker to it in such a way that it will exist in the world as a multiple. People get really confused about this because there's all kinds of printing out there—prints that are really just reproductions of somebody's drawing or painting. Like most of the wildlife art that people buy, it's signed and numbered by the artist, but it's not the same thing at all. Regardless of how it was realized.

I've never thought about that. Someone who's going to do an Iowa calendar goes around taking pictures in Iowa, and they have an understanding of the context of their art. And some people do art, and they have no idea where it's going to end up or no intention of what's going to happen to it. Or maybe it's going to be for one show. I never thought about the fact that when you sit down to do the art for a print, you have to think that not only are there going to be multiples, but these multiples are going to be beyond your control in terms of their context.
The same thing if you make a piece and sell it. You have no idea what happens to it. Usually it goes on someone's wall.

I'm thinking of the Che Guevara print that was photograph that somebody made a print of.
And then it was everywhere, right?

Yeah.
I know what you mean. And actually, what happens in that case is the author fades away. That is an interesting part. The other part of printmaking that I was drawn to is that it's not a solitary activity. You are almost always doing it with other people in a studio where other people are working. Often times you need help and you collaborate. It's also a way artists collaborate. I'm working with Dave Niec who was here (gallery 224 resident). It's a collaboration. I'm working with him to create a series of prints based on some drawings that he's making. And that's a way as a printmaker I can go beyond my own work. And this is part of the tradition of printmaking as well. In addition to printing one’s own work, you collaborate with other artists who are interesting in making original multiples. I can figure out how to realize his vision in print. So there's that aspect of it also. It's that collaborative sort of thing. When I got into printmaking, I did an apprenticeship. I did it in school, and then I left school for a semester and worked with a printmaker. I learned way more than I ever learned in school. Also it was important to him to have someone else in the studio working with him. It was a collaborative sort of thing. It's not me, not you. It's like we are working on this together. Printmaking in general is almost always done in shared space.

This is interesting. A number of the artists I visited with have talked about their art, and then have talked about their interest in printmaking. You're the first person I've talked to for whom printmaking is primary or more central than secondary. So printmakers tend to be more gregarious. Some people just like to be left alone to do their art.
There are times when I want to be left alone. You don't do printmaking by yourself usually. If you're fortunate to have your own equipment and studio, if you're doing it seriously you have at least one assistant if not more.

And some people you can work with and some people are more difficult to work with.
The nature of the business is to work with other people. The collaboration part I find really interesting, and I think it has something to do with the way that composers and musicians work together. To fully realize what you're doing, you need to be able to work with someone else. There's that type of interaction. Or I as a printmaker can take someone's drawing—I don't take it away from them—But I can certainly reinterpret it or help them work with a reinterpretation. Kincaid's prints are basically reproductions of his paintings, and God forbid you should change a morsel of anything. That's not collaboration; that's commercial exploitation. The same thing happened with a lot of signed Salvador Dalí prints at the end of his life.

I remember in my conversation with David Niec that he was talking about working with a printmaker.
Yeah, that was me. We're good friends. He's a really interesting person.

Was there a moment or a year or is it still going on, in which you said, “The label artist? I'll take that.”?
That's an interesting question. I thought of  myself as an artist back when I decided this is the direction I want to go with this. I was pretty determined to do that sort of thing. Somewhere inside me I'm sort of relentless about these things. I had very few doubts that this is what I want to be doing with my life, somehow or other be doing this.

When did that happen?
I think that happened when I actively switched majors and decided to do that. Not that there weren't bumps in the road where I had some doubts here and there, but I said, Okay, I'm going to try to be this. As to when I sort of accepted the mantle of being an artist? Probably somewhere around... I'd finished school, and I wasn't doing grad school yet, but I realized I needed to keep doing this. The statistics are actually pretty horrible. Eighty-five percent of the people that take an art degree don't do anything with it.

Wow. Don't do anything in terms of supporting themselves or that they don't do art again?
Don't do art again. They just get busy with other things, and they can't make a living at it.

That's sad.
So it goes back to the teaching thing. When I work with more mature students, I tell them, “Look, you're here in school, and I'm giving you assignments. When you leave here, nobody's going to be beating you with a stick and telling you you've got to do art. You've got to be able to pick up your own stick and beat yourself.”

One of the things that seems to be common with people I would call artists is that they say, “I don't have enough time. I wish I had more time to do art.”
Yeah, that makes sense.

Or somebody I talked to said, “It's not an option for me any more.” I gotta do it.
That's that fifteen percent of people who find... I'm a real believer in joy. That's a good one. Joy is good.

We're different. Some of us find joy in the elegance of mathematical proofs; some of us find joy in going into a chem lab and not talking to anyone for days; some of us find joy in standup comedy; and some of us find joy in art in such a way that we can't not do it.
And there's always that interplay between when you take yourself very seriously and then your very open. It's never just one thing. So on one hand I do take joy, and other the other hand I feel driven to make. And sometimes I enjoy it and sometimes I don't, but I can't not do it.

Right. Can you do it without judgment?
Here's a professor answer. There's a short essay by John Updike that I keep near about being both a critic and a writer. As he reflects on the experience of being a critic and a writer he is adamant about how you can't do both at the same time. If you're actually writing, you have to turn your critical side off. Not that it's not there, but you have to work uncritically. But when you're done with being creative you must—and this is what most professional artists do—you must take those steps back and put on the critic hat. There's a group of artists who are identified as primitive, naive or unschooled and they often make wonderful stuff that's purely uncritical. It really is. For them, everything they make is fine. That's not me. Every trained artist (formal or not) has a full dumpster. And anyone who tells it differently is lying. Because you have to do that. And if the dumpster's not full, I also have that drawer of things that I did that I wasn't able to fully resolve. I'll put it in the drawer and I'll pull it out at a later date (sometimes years later) and look at it because this piece didn’t work, but it told me something about doing the next piece. So the answer to your question is, Yes you have to be uncritical while you're working, but you can't be uncritical for the whole process. There has to be point where you say, This works and this doesn't and act accordingly

So does time disappear when you're working?
Oh sure. To the consternation of the people I live with.

You have friends that are artists?
Yes.

You have friends that are not artists?
Yes.

The friends that are artists, are they also printmakers?
Some of them. Some of them do print making occasionally. Some of them are not interested.

Is teaching a financial choice or is teaching a source of joy?
I think it's kind of both. I slid into teaching kind of sideways. I lived in Israel for ten years. There was thirteen years between graduate and undergraduate work. So when I lived in Israel I lived on a kibbutz and there was a kibbutz artists association that had a printmaking studio in Tel Aviv. I went in to the city to work with them, and their litho press was broken and I fixed it. And they asked me to teach, so I started teaching there. From there I end up going over to the Tel Aviv Artists' house that also had a printmaking workshop. It used to be much bigger; it's much smaller now, and I started teaching there. I was teaching lithography which was not being done much there at all. When I came to Israel I brought a press with me and I had a studio at the kibbutz also. I was working there and began to be known as an artist, and  printmaker and was invited to be a guest artist in the printmaking department of Bezalel – the Hebrew University Art school. I was their guest artist and taught semester there. Then I was offered a faculty position at the Avni Institute an art school in Tel Aviv. I did that for about three years, and then I realized if I really wanted to get this going where I wanted it to go, I needed to complete my studies with an MFA. We came back to the States with the intentions of going back there, but while I was studying here, the school I was working for had a labor dispute, and fired everybody, and then just disappeared. I didn't have a job to go back to when I finished grad school. When you finish grad school with an MFA you have a couple options. One of them was teaching, and I got a position at MIAD right away part-time. I was teaching for them part-time/full-time, and then began working for the UW Colleges as an adjunct instructor. I did the full-time as part-time at three different schools for almost ten years. And I realized I like the teaching so I was stubborn and stuck with it until the tenure track position opened up in Manitowoc

Who's idea was it to use a steamroller for big prints? (http://manitowoc.uwc.edu/arts/gallery/special-exhibit)
The steamroller printing has been going on for a while. I don't know who came up with it. The thing is, very few places have large presses. It's very hard to print large pieces bigger than this (2x4'). It was out there, and I saw it. The city (Manitowoc) was willing to give us the steamroller, and the museum (Rahr West Art Museum) was willing to show the prints. That was another big part of it. People do the big prints, and then you roll them up and take them home and put them under the bed, and they never get seen again. So we kept one from each printmaker and the show's been toured around also. So I tried to make something different. It wasn't just the steamroller. It's kind of fun. It takes it out of the studio.

And for the pedestrians among us, it's one of the more interesting aspects.
Oh, it's great entertainment, but it's not an original idea. I saw it somewhere and thought, “That's interesting.” and then it goes in the back of my head for a little while. Then I realized, I can do this. I have access to a steamroller; I have access to a parking lot; I have access to a place to hang the prints; and then I have access to these other connections for showing them afterwards.

What are you learning now?
Patience. With lots of things. Politics. A laser cutter and a 3D printer. The other thing I've been learning more about is working with letter press. We have a showcard press in our studio. It's how they used to print signs. The showcard press is actually from the Sheboygan Public Library. So it's movable type. It's old-fashioned printing basically. And we're really close to Hamilton. So I've been learning more about type, about that end of printing. With my newer prints combining words from letterpress into them. So that's been something I've been learning. The photogravure stuff is ongoing. The technology keeps changing. The materials are made for a commercial market and that keeps changing. Meaning, you master it and then the manufacturers change the material so you need to learn it again.. I'm always learning. I don't stop. There's always something.

Everybody I know who does art has an edge. What do people who are not artists not know or not get about art, about doing art?
I think they don't understand the intentionality. And this is one of the hardest things I have to get across. I teach an art survey, and I teach that the art we will look at is going to be about ideas. That nothing that happens in any piece is by accident. Even if it looks accidental, it's accidentally there on purpose. Being willing to engage that intentionality is what they don't know. They think, “Oh my two-year old could do that.” And I'm thinking, Well, maybe they could but it's like ten-thousand monkey's typing Shakespeare. It's intentionality. There is no art without ideas. If there's no idea there, it's not really art. It's decoration.

Does the residency program work as a learning opportunity?
Can I say “not yet”? Here's the thing. I haven't really been able to immerse myself here as much as I wanted to yet because I'm still pulled in multiple directions at this point. Over time it certainly could be.

So you mean not yet for you.
I've also said I would do some teaching, and I haven't been able to yet. Part of my being involved here is seeing it as part of my transition to retirement from teaching at the university. But I don't want to pull away from that completely, and I think this could be an opportunity to make that transition. I plan to work there another two to three years at least. But I want to be done with that. Doing the professor thing is crazy at times. You're on committees, and you're doing things that are way outside your discipline. Your time is just all crunched up with other things.

Okay, let's go downstairs and look at some of your work.


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