Friday, May 10, 2013

Prints at Childhood’s End

The Weekly Volcano, My 9, 2013

My admiration for Lisa Sweet is growing. I was impressed with the pieces she had in the recent “Finish” show at The Evergreen State College and even more impressed with her work in the current show at Childhood’s End Gallery.

The show is Printmakers: The Art of the Hand Pulled Print. It features prints by seven artists: Sherry Buckner, silkscreen; Kristen Etmund, woodblock; Stephen McMillan, aquatint; Mimi Williams, linoleum block; Yoshiko Yamamoto, linoleum block; and etchings, engravings & woodcuts by Sweet.

Sweet is known for her somewhat surrealistic paintings of saints and biblical figures and others that combine contemporary imagery with a fine Northern Renaissance painting style. Technically her painting is exquisite. I’ve never before seen her prints. She has three pieces in this exhibition. 

“Doubt” is an engraving of two figures, male and female. The man’s face is a negative image as if cut out from the print to reveal the white paper underneath. Hanging above them as if on a clothesline or like pots in a kitchen or carcasses in a butcher shop is an array of body parts and various objects. I cannot presume to interpret what this picture may mean if the objects are intended as metaphors, but it is a powerful image.

“Saint Joan” is a two-part color reduction woodcut & matrix double portrait of Joan d’Arc. Her expression is haunted, her face harsh but pensive with high cheekbones and a strong chin. The contour lines are heavy and sure. The shading is nicely done. 

In addition to these two pieces Sweet has a set of four tiny etchings of a woman called “Unidentified Boiled Saint” printed on tea bags and displayed in a recessed area in heavy black frames.

I also like Susan Aurand’s set of nine altered monotype landscapes titled “MorningFields.” They are abstract scenes of fields and sky with rectangular bands and vibrant pastel colors. And Mimi Williams’ nine linoleum block prints. They depict various scenes such as swimmers, a boy reading, a roller derby, and fish. They have an early American feel and strong contrasts between black and white markings and bright colors. One called “Pet Store Dreams” cleverly has a fish aquarium underwater in a stream — an image that recalls the kind of odd juxtapositions Rene Magritte is famous for.

One nice thing about this show is that prints can be sold much more cheaply than paintings or sculpture, so this show offers a chance for people of modest means to acquire some art for their homes.


[Childhood’s End Gallery, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through May 31, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.943.3724]

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