Printed works make statement through image, technique at North Side studio |
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'Cost I & II' by Tonja Torgerson is part of Printwork 2014 at Artist Image Resources on the North Side.

Featuring prints created by 33 artists from around the country, “Printwork 2014” at Artists Image Resource, features innovative techniques combined with solid conceptual thinking.

“There are a number of people working today who are doing some interesting things technically, and this exhibit represents that,” says Robert Beckman, executive/artistic director at AIR, a printmaking studio on the North Side.

Take, for example, “Ectoplasm Fountain 1,” a screen print with multiple color gradations and interlocking colors by Mark Hosford of Nashville, where he is an associate professor of art at Vanderbilt University. Beckman considers it one of the more “technically proficient” pieces in the show.

It’s based on a solid concept, the artist says.

“This piece is a continuation of my work dealing with a ghost or spirit world,” Hosford says. “Many of my recent works showcase ways in which a normally hidden realm begins to manifest itself and intersect with the human world.”

In Hosford’s ectoplasm fountain, cubic architectural forms begin to ooze and percolate with other-worldly, brightly colored goo.

“I love that the term ‘ectoplasm’ itself can refer to both an actual biological structure, as well as the physical manifestation of spirits,” Hosford says. “For me, the term also illustrates how people often have a fascination and misunderstanding of their own bodily processes, attaching a supernatural origin to a physical function of our body.”

Thus, the piece has both scientific and spiritualistic meaning at the same time.

Also technically proficient, “Late Drag,” a multiple-block woodcut by Ricardo Ruiz of Corpus Christi, Texas, is full of symbols as they relate to superstitions. Ruiz’s work won the Best in Show award for this exhibit, and he will get his own exhibit during next year’s presentation of Printwork.

“I am interested in how humankind interprets the unknown within its environment,” Ruiz says. “By presenting undefined characters and scenes, I want the viewer to make their own assumptions as to what is taking place.”

Another piece imbued with more than one meaning is the installation piece “Cost I & II” by Tonja Torgerson of Lawrence, Kan.

Influenced by “A Morning’s Work,” a well-known Civil War medical photograph of amputated limbs from the Burns Archive, Torgerson’s pieces are about illness, death and decay and how one deals with and accepts that one’s body is falling apart and will perish.

“‘Cost’ is about loss and the effects of loss,” Torgerson says of the piles of limb-shaped pillows screen-printed with life-size outlines of arms and legs. “It is also a comment on the expense of our health care system, both financially and emotionally.”

Made from hospital gowns, which are associated with the pain, discomfort and anxiety of surgery and medical exams, they have been turned into pillows, which are objects of comfort.

“But the pillows are also amputated limbs, representing a huge loss of oneself,” Torgerson says. “I am trying to combine those feelings, because dealing with illness brings on a complex and intense mix of emotions.”

Of course, a print doesn’t have to be complicated to convey complicated ideas. “See No Evil,” a monoprint by Ruthann Godollei, an art professor and chair of the art department at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., depicts an armed drone in a dark sky and the words “See No Evil.”

“The text has double meanings,” Godollei says. “Drones mistakenly ‘seeing’ an Afghan wedding party as a threat led to 47 civilian deaths, while weaponized drones are an evil I’d like to not see. We talk about drone strikes as if there are no humans behind the attacks, as if the machines blind us to the dark moral problem of killing by remote control without trial, jury or due process.”

Finally, a whole gallery is dedicated to the work of Koichi Yamamoto, who is originally from Osaka, Japan, and now living in Knoxville, Tenn.

Displaying 15 copper engravings in all, each depicting faces of either animals or humans, Yamamoto says his interest in making these images is about having eye contact, catching signals and being watched.

“If these eyes are looking at me and telling something, then I want to continue to stare in these eyes, maybe to discover stories behind, a moment, greeting or sense of compassion,” he says.

Yamamoto was the winner of last year’s Best of Show, in which he received $500 and this single gallery exhibit.

Kurt Shaw is the art critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected].

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