Sunday, November 25, 2012

Behind It All

Mary Fielding McCleary, "Traveler," Chine collé a la poupeé polymer-gravure, edition of 24, 2012.
Mary Fielding McCleary is best known for her amazing yet puzzling “paintings.” I wrote that with quotes because they are most often described as paintings, but in reality they are intricately built, dense collages made up of what I perceive as the flotsam and jetsam of contemporary living: discarded plastic parts, wooden coffee sticks, bits of string, bits of colorful paper all minutely configured to make up almost photo-realistic scenes that may (or may not) have narrative. They read like ancient tesserae works with content that may as easily come from the materials that make the work.  Named Texas Artist of the Year in 2011 by the Art League of Houston, Mary's work has had international acclaim.

Mary Fielding McCleary, "Between Darkness and Light," 2006
In 2005, Mary and I planned on working together for the first time. We floundered about as to how to transition her way of working into a printmaking technique without simply reproducing one of her finished paintings.  Mary revealed that all of her large works begin with an underpainting worked out in a monochromatic method.  Most often this is referred to as grisaille, and creating it helped her plan and shape the finished collage work. When she showed me an example of her grisaille, we decided to go forward with making a polymer-gravure etching using a specially created grisaille painting as its starting point. From that first collaboration came “Fallen, Fallen, Light Renew” and “Between Darkness and Light.”

This year, Mary has returned to collaborate on two new etchings and we are now in the process of printing two editions of these images which were created in the same way. Mary chose two images that might seem radically different from each other, but I think of them as two movements from the same symphony that she is composing. Her work moves into the dark, mysterious realm at times and can turn and go into a space of lyric poetry. We are pleased to have these two new works underway, and want to offer them as pre-published works to her collectors. 

The first, “Traveler,” features a suburban male, perhaps a young teen, facing us with a full “war paint” face. He is defiant, and he is outside partially dressed in what appears to be winter. Suburbia is decked out in holiday décor but the decorations are askew and puzzling. Is he defiant to the culture and yearning for the primitive? Is he deluding himself that he doesn’t belong to the times and place around him? Can we even side with him or the culture? What kind of separation has happened here? 

Mary Fielding McCleary, "Swan," Polymer-gravure etching, edition of 24, 2012.
Just when we have been drawn into this tumult, we look to her other etching, “Swan,” and find a dark, watery world upon which a swan effortlessly swims.  He is solid upon liquid. There are no questions, but there is reassurance that all is right and all is good.

If you are interested in either of these classic McCleary images, they are currently in production, and pre-publication prices will be available only until the prints are signed before Christmas.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Her Majesty (su majestad)

Her Majesty (su majestad) by Sandra Fernandez
When you think of a Queen, in all of her majesty, you may envision a highly decorated, intricately dressed, crowned image of a woman with scepter like Queen Elizabeth the First in Coronation Robes by an unknown artist (Queen Elizabeth I).  Elizabeth presents herself in the painting with all the symbols of her God given power and authority. She is perfection, beyond reproach, and perhaps scarcely human.

Contrast this to the new etching by Sandra C. Fernandez, Her Majesty (su majestad).   Sandra gives us the soul of the queen, the very essence of her with the barest of linear elements.  She holds her scepter, she moves forward with history about her in a skirt of words.  She appears to be stitched together, held with threads and yet her energy is substantial.

Detail of Her Majesty (su majestad) skirt
Sandra C. Fernandez is a Latino artist who was born in the USA but spent her formative years in Quito, Ecuador.  In 1987 she returned to live in the United States, and in 1995 she earned her MFA in printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  After coming to Austin in 2004, she came to know us at Flatbed and became an important part of Austin's art community.  Sandra is now a Senior Lecturer at the University of Texas in Austin and also serves as Co-Director of the Guest Artists in Printmaking Program (GAPP) there.

Sandra has made six prints with Flatbed Press and this summer began the seventh, Her Majesty.  Since she is an accomplished printmaker, our collaboration with Sandra involved assisting her with etching, proofing and editioning.  She developed her image from her experience working with intaglio techniques and her use of sewn lines from the constructions, fine art books and sculptures that she fabricates.  She began by cutting her large copper plate into a trapezoid shape, a shape that set the stage for her stripped clean existential figure to dominate its compressed space.   Sandra created lines first by stitching the figure onto paper and transferring the stitching the the plate by pressing the stitching into the soft-ground covered copper plate.  The impressions of the stitching were carefully etched to hold the ink.  The etched figure was printed in two colors:  sepia for the body's lines and red for the scepter and skirt.  Her skirt, which is a chine collé element, is made of stitched together book pages from a 1730's London publication of the State Trials and Proceedings upon High Treason and other Crimes and Misdemeanors from the reign of King Richard II to the end of the reign of King George I.  She lifts her scepter to rule with the history cinched around her waist.  She is Her Majesty.

The edition of 20 prints was signed October 25 and is now available through Flatbed Press or The Gallery at Shoal Creek.  Long Live the Queen.