Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Dena Schuckit goes to London

Dena Schuckit has been a printer at Crown Point Press since 1995. Since coming to work here she has become Senior Master Printer. Now she is going to London to pursue an MFA at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design. She won’t be out of touch, she is working on a new printmaking advice column for this website, “Ask Dena” which will be up the second week of April. Get your etching questions ready. She is also writing a forthcoming book in the Magical Secrets series, "Magical Secrets About Gravure: Photogravure and Direct Gravure Step By Step".

I asked her to describe some of her favorite experiences working with artists at Crown Point Press over the last 12 years asked her to boil down her experience into a few words and she said, “I guess I’ve just learned so much about making art here, it’s basically a whole different language – each artist comes in with their own language, and I have learned to adapt to working with different languages.”

Her introduction to printing at Crown Point was working with Tom Marioni, who she has worked with many times since. Her first two week project was with Anne Appleby, who has a methodical approach to image making.

Dena said, “She’s just so in tune with nature and her color sense is so complex. I learned so much about color. If we were working towards a red color then we’d start off with a bright green. We had to figure out how to build the colors that she was looking for.”

Anne Appleby
WINTER, 1999
Color Aquatint

Later she worked with David Nash, which was a faster, messier ride. “He was grabbing these new materials, using the tree rosin in big chunks – just wanting to get his hands in everything.” If each artist has a language, Nash’s language seemed to be spoken faster than Appleby’s.

David Nash
SQUARE CIRCLE TRIANGLE: black in light, 1998
Aquatint reversal

Dena worked with Richard Tuttle first on “Mandevilla”, a project from 1988. She said,
“Working with Richard Tuttle was always a search, an exploration that would happen as we were making the plates. He would sit down and start telling me a story that was one really long and circuitous route. I would just do my best to follow it and eventually we would wind up right back where we started. The projects were kind of like that too.”

Richard Tuttle
Mandevilla 5, 1998
Color aquatint

I asked Kathan Brown, founding director of Crown Point what it has been like working with Dena Schuckit, she said, “We’ve relied on Dena for a long time. She’s such a pleasure to be around as a person. The artists all really adore her, and of course there’s nobody better as a printer. We’ve just been lucky to have her.”

Dena is excited to see how these varied experiences helping artists with very different methods and approaches achieve their goals in etching will translate into her own MFA work. We are curious too. We look forward to reading “Ask Dena”, and "Magical Secrets About Gravure: Photogravure and Direct Gravure Step By Step", and wish her well in her English adventure.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pia Fries at Crown Point Press

The studio has been busy with activity as we just completed a two-week artist project with Pia Fries. During her stay she created four vibrant etchings. Pia was born in Switzerland but she has made Germany her home ever since attending art school at the Kunstakadedmie in Dusseldorf, where she studied painting with Gerhard Richter. This was Pia’s first time making prints at Crown Point Press as well as her first time making etchings. It was an exciting project for me as the master printer in charge of the project, as it was the first time I lead a project in which the artist was totally fresh to etching.

When Pia arrived Monday morning we began by looking at our current Winter Group Show in the gallery so that she could get a sense of the possibilities of intaglio printing. For anyone who is a printmaker or who has tried etching you know how daunting and complex some of the processes can often seem. It was my job, as the master printer, to make the processes as accessible and easy to understand as possible so that Pia could find an approach to etching that felt natural and akin to her way of working in her own studio.

Prior to Pia’s arrival we had been in contact about including photographic elements in her prints. For her paintings, she photographs sculptures she makes with such materials as thick paint and paper, and then she silk-screens these images onto the canvas. Her work is well known for the way in which she incorporates these sculptural photographic images into the larger composition made of layer upon layer of thick, visceral oil paint. The week before Pia arrived I made photogravure plates of the photographic motifs she wanted to work with while she was in our studio. (Photogravure is a way etching a photographic image into a copper plate.) With the photogravure plate as the framework for each print, Pia built up the image using just about every technique we had to offer her.

When we began work in the studio Pia was happy to get her hands dirty and really see what each process was about. When Pia works on her paintings she uses many tools that are conventionally not intended for painting, or printmaking for that matter! It was so much fun to work with her to find ways of working with these tools in etching. She and I both had to be rather inventive in our approaches to the medium and open to trying something new. In the four prints she created you can instantly see the joy and spontaneity that went into their making.