by Tom Wachunas
“Print is the best of God’s inventions.” - Martin Luther –
“The act of printing has always seemed to me a miracle, just such a miracle as the growing up of a tiny seed of grain to an ear – an everyday miracle, even the greater because it happens every day. One drawing is sown on the stone or the etching plate, and a harvest is reaped from it.” – Vincent Van Gogh -
EXHIBITION: Print That – selections from the permanent collection at the Canton Museum of Art, through July 22 www.cantonart.org
There’s still a few days left to visit the Canton Museum of Art and view Print That – a thoroughly diverse and edifying selection of prints from the museum’s permanent collection. This is a remarkable compilation, and one that reminds me how thrilling it can be to see the look of astonishment that crosses many of my art appreciation students’ faces when they fully comprehend the many challenging processes involved in printmaking. An artist can’t simply generate an image with the same spontaneity or immediate results as when making a drawing on paper or a painting on canvas. There are specific procedures and mechanical disciplines involved.
For example, in a multi-colored woodcut, particularly where edges of shapes need to meet precisely, each color requires carving a separate block of wood. And let’s not forget that printmakers think… backwards. That is, they need to remember that in the print pulled off the wood block or metal plate or litho stone, the right-left orientation of their original drawing gets reversed.
Lest you construe from any of these pitiably few observations that I am a printmaker myself, be assured I’m not - at least not since my last hurriedly-made woodcut from around 1982, which was a terribly crude self-portrait carved with a dull matte knife and a 16-penny nail. But seeing the stunningly elaborate, ambitious design and color in works such as Jennifer Bartlett’s combination silk screen- woodcut At Sea, Japan here, a kind of longing to re-engage the sheer, magical craft of it all stirred inside me.
No promises, but maybe someday my prints will come.
Photos: Top – Crak by Roy Lichtenstein, 1964 Lithograph / Forest Shade, Lithograph by Stow Wengenroth / At Sea, Japan, woodcut and silk screen by Jennifer Bartlett