Monday, November 14, 2011

Who Holds Memory

Installation shot of "Tag: We're It", Flatbed Press.  November 5, 2011.  The black frames are can be removed and re-positioned over the QR coded wall.  The digital devices "read" the code and instantly access the corresponding video.

If you attended "Tag: We're It" at Flatbed Press on the evening of November 5th, you may have come away a little overwhelmed, like I did.  Flatbed's parking lot was full and the main hall gallery that held the digitally projected QR tags was overflowing with visitors patiently "reading" the codes that linked to videos revealed on IPads, IPod Touch or their own smart phone screens.  It was a quiet, almost hushed atmosphere in the gallery, where the four projectors flooded the walls with light and code.  Lisa Kaselak and Lee Billington, the designers and video artists who organized, filmed and planned this large scale installation were on site to facilitate the interactive experience.  They had interviewed over seventy individuals in a carefully styled setting that only showed each person's bare shoulders and heads. Each answered a simple question:  "What is your earliest memory?"  The results were a range of poignant, funny, hazy, dark, childlike, telling memories.  To discover and watch each video, the viewers moved the available foam-core viewing frames into position for the digital devices to "find" each QR tag, which is otherwise hidden in the wall of projected light and dots.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Flatbed in Italy

La Romita, as seen from the courtyard.  Photo:  Jena Shepherd
Last week in Austin, Texas when the Hunter’s Moon lit up my backyard, I was reminded of the previous full moon, twenty-eight days before, seen from the courtyard of La Romita, an artists' retreat and school located near Terni, Italy in the heart of Umbria.  It was a glorious, Italian “Harvest Moon” and it kept me awake with its brightness lighting the olive grove around the quiet studio that night. It was a beautiful place to be and to make art.  For two weeks, La Romita was "Flatbed in Italy."

I was at La Romita teaching “Immersive Printmaking” to a group of artists from Austin and Dallas, Texas:  Lucy Flores, Marc Durbin, Chu Nui Pak, Jeff Smith, Camilla Cowan, Jena Shepherd, and Karla Barfield.  My husband, Mike Brimberry, volunteered to assist us.  My intention was to teach a printmaking workshop at La Romita that would concentrate on how to use water-based ink with polymer etching plates, called Solarplates, which could be etched with water instead of chemicals and I also wanted to guide the participants into trying unique and expressive printing methods.  The Solarplate printmaking technique is a process that is a more non-toxic approach to printmaking and can be made even more so with the use of inks that do not require solvents.   My group of artists, who joined in this adventure to do the workshop in Italy at La Romita, was ambitious to get to work.  I launched into the first demonstrations of how to make and print the plates the second day we were there.   For those of you not familiar with the Solarplate printmaking methods, we needed some equipment not usually found in most printmaking studios.  La Romita had the glass and wooden exposure frames as well as a UV exposure box built for us.  La Romita's Italian-made press worked well for the plates, and we brought magnetic inking and wiping pads to hold the plates.  It didn't take long before the studio was buzzing with activity and creativity.  The workshop participants were full of ideas and took full advantage of all our studio time.  Our plan had been to spend most mornings visiting nearby Umbrian hill country towns and sites and to work in the afternoons.  We amended that schedule and decided to work mornings and "play" afternoons and play we did by going to over ten different sites in Umbria during our fifteen days there.

Immersive Printmaking Group with Ben and Enza.  Photo: J.Shepherd
I could go on and on about how well we were treated at La Romita, the wonderful homestyle meals we had, the work that we did, and the places that we saw.  I suspect that many who have been to La Romita have had this kind of experience as well.  The school has been operating for almost fifty yearsand features two week exclusive workshops at the school which is located in a refurbished four-hundred plus year old Capuchin Monastery. Perhaps the greatest joy I found at La Romita were the friendships and camaraderie we found there.  All this is orchestrated by founders Enza Quargnali and Harold Benson (known as Ben), and director, Edmund Zimmerman.  They set the standard for hospitality that gives direction and room to discover Umbria and perhaps yourself as well.  Enza , as an artist and also a printmaker, was greatly interested in the workshop, and her enthusiasm was contagious.  Her husband, Ben, is highly knowledgeable about the history and architectural details of La Romita. Since we shared our mid-day and evening meals with Ben and Enza, many interesting conversations were had about their forty-year history at La Romita and the many interesting architectural posts at which Ben has served.  Edmund is the school's on site director.  He is also known as La Romita's "artist in residence" as he is a writer and poet.  His dry sense of humor and nightly entertaining slide shows to help orient us to the towns and historical sites we were to visit the following day. Among the places we chose to visit were Tarquenia, an ancient Etruscan port/city, Perugia, Orvieto, Assisi, Spoleto, and Todi.

Karla Barfield (right) pulling a proof.
In the studio magic started to happen.  The artists began to find their way to use the materials and techniques.  I had the technical tools and methods to offer, but each of the participants created works that were distinctly and inventively theirs. I’m looking forward to reuniting with the group in the spring when we plan to have an exhibition at Flatbed Press featuring of the work started at La Romita or inspired by the experience there.  

I plan on coming back to La Romita in 2013, and am already imagining and planning the next workshop.  Flatbed is considering offering two workshops during that session at La Romita.  I look forward to being there once again and being with the good people there and other fellow artists. 

Katherine Brimberry

Friday, August 5, 2011

What the Heat Brought About

The Thrasher Place

It was fifteen years ago that John Cobb and I started a large copper etching.  If you don't know John Cobb, you should.  He is a painter, and not your ordinary painter.  He is the only painter I know that can work using the almost forgotten technique of egg tempera on gesso with gold leaf on bolo like the painters of the 13th -16th century did in Italy.  He also works with oils and acrylics, and his subject matter is sometimes religious and yet contemporary.  Sometimes he turns his eye to landscape and translates what he finds with incredible detail and content.

All this being said, fifteen years ago we started an etching.  I was the collaborating master printer, and the landscape he drew on the very large plate (22" X 28") became dense and mysterious.  At some point we tried a technique that unintentionally darkened a large area and discouraged us both.  We decided to take a break.  John would come back when he was ready and we would tackle the plate again.

Detail of "The Thrasher Place"
It was a long break.  It was fifteen years.  Two weeks ago, the heat brought John out of his warm studio into the cool AC of Flatbed with the plate and all our old proofs.  "Can we fix this?", he asked.  "If there is copper, there is hope." I answered.  He set to work burnishing, re-etching, and polishing.  Tracy Mayrello, our master printer of editioning, got her magic hands on the plate and pulled a proof every time John made changes.  She, John and I fell into the project, losing ourselves in the beautiful mark making. Yesterday, a final proof was pulled that did that "take your breath away" thing that prints sometimes do.  You can see an image of the whole print at the beginning of  this blog, and also a very small detail of that print to the right.

We determined to print a small edition of 30 of what John has titled "The Thrasher Place."  John and Flatbed will co-publish this print, and so to finance the printing, we are offering a very deep discount to three collectors who want to buy the print before it is editioned.

Let us know if you want to come and see it the final proof in person. (Prints always look better in person.)  Since it is "hot" off the press, it is in the back and we'll need to get it out for you ahead of time.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Twenty Years and Counting

I don't want to get too sentimental here, but when I walked into the Austin Museum of Art's main galleries on a Saturday to see twenty years of our work on the walls, I felt just a tad overwhelmed.  Prints to the right and left of me, before and behind me tugging at all the memories of collaborating with the artists and the processes we used make the work happen. Stories welled up about what innovations, struggles and conquests we had to make get the work finished.  And here they were, a crowd of old friends, from over twenty years in one space, seeming very familiar but out of context and place.  In the AMoA galleries Mark Smith and Dana Friis-Hansen crafted the hanging of the exhibition in such a way that the works seem to have grouped themselves into compatible social circles.  They converse across the room to each other, making conversations that begged listening in upon.  Slowly, I started to see the finished works in a new way,  like seeing your adult children for the first time as separate and complete.

Walking into the first gallery, James Surls' "Night Vision,"  sitting low on the horizon, under the radar so to speak, springs into view  fully formed, highly articulate much like Minerva fully armed from Zeus's forehead,  It speaks clearly defining a mystical vantage point to the lush, green Samson Mnisi untitled monotype across from it.  The Mnisi's deep layers of tribal memories simply answer Surls' with quiet mystery.

In another room, there is a harmonious song between Liz Ward's incremental "Fossil", Joan Winter's "Still Water" and Linda Ridgway's "Mason Dixon Line."  I had just listened to Balmohea's "All Is Wild, All Is Silent" and felt as if I was seeing that music in the flesh.

It is time for another visit, and this time without the opening crowd.  I look forward to visiting these old friends...or are they adult children?  Regardless, it is good to see them out having a grand time with each other.

The exhibition, Advancing Tradition: Twenty Years of Printmaking at Flatbed Press, will be open at Austin Museum of Art until February 13.

Printeresting had an interview with Mark Smith and me that might help describe our work at Flatbed in case you are interested as well:

The museum is featuring an Artists' Reunion the afternoon of January 29 and we expect many of the Flatbed artists to travel to Austin for this event.  That same evening, Terry Allen and Bob Schneider, both Flatbed artists, will perform together for the first time at Antones Blues Club.  The performance is open to the public and tickets are on sale at Antones.

I hope to see you there!

Katherine Brimberry