Elizabeth Blackadder, a respected printmaker since the early 1950s, was the first woman elected to both the Royal Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy. During her career, she has experimented with a range of printing techniques. Still Life with Pagoda, 1998, is a twelve-color screenprint on Somerset paper printed at Gresham Studio, Ltd. in Ca bridge, England. The artist has included a fan, a pagoda ornament and a sketch along with planes of colors that invoke memories of travel, or fragments of a dream.
The French-born artist Louise Bourgeois, one of the most prominent sculptors of the twentieth century, has made prints throughout her career. In the creation of her work, she draws from her past exploring themes of loneliness, conflict, frustration and vulnerability. The subconscious and the relationships of one form to another are themes in her work, which is never completely abstract or nonobjective. Bourgeois has said that “everything I create comes from something personal; some memory or emotional experience.” Childhood memories often inspire Bourgeois, such as the recurring one of her father’s adulterous relationship with her governess.
The British-born artist, Sue Coe, is an activist who uses her work to protest against social and political injustice. She explores controversial issues such as race, labor conditions and the mistreatment of animals, both for scientific experimentation and food. Her work depicts the hidden and often violent reality of life. Coe uses printmaking as a tool to raise political consciousness and to explore the problems of capitalism and greed. Her print Second Millennium (1997) is Coe’s debt to Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516), whose fifteenth-century paintings depict fantastic, often diabolic, creatures suffering the consequences of sin, is obvious. Like Bosch, Coe is dealing with contemporary issues. The artist includes a modern reference to the Apollo spacecraft perhaps to indicate how much the world has gone awry while the astronauts were on their mission.
“I realized that our problem as human beings was not that we were all warlike and greedy, but rather that we were too cooperative with the bully.” — Sue Coe
Unlike most artists, Yvonne Jacquette rejects traditional, Renaissance-based rules of perspective in favor of aerial views of the world. In 1974, while flying across the country, Jacquette decided to paint what she saw. Since then, her paintings and prints have examined the aerial views of the American landscape from coast to coast as well as countries worldwide. The abstract quality of life as seen from such a viewpoint has provided the inspiration for her work. Inspired by the painting process, Jacquette began making linoleum and woodblock prints in 1981. Working from aerial photographs and drawings done in mid-air, she goes beyond mere visual reproduction; the work examines the abstract quality of life, comparing the constructed to the natural and the urban to the rural.
The painter and printmaker Ellen Lanyon is interested in the mysteries of nature and the effects of humankind on the natural world. In her work, she draws on a variety of sources, including natural history museum exhibits and book illustrations, to merge the fantastic and the real in complex ways. In her screenprint Naumkeag, 1997, lavender flowers float in front of a foreboding landscape dominated by leaping frogs. The title, Naumkeag, has two distinct meanings. It is the old name for Salem, Massachusetts, and may be a reference to the prehistoric life once found there. Naumkeag is also the name of a historic house museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts known for terraced gardens and landscaped grounds designed in the late nineteenth century by Nathan Barret.
Born in Santa Fe, NM, Nicola López lives and works in Brooklyn and teaches at Columbia University in New York City. Through her work in installation, drawing and printmaking, López describes and reconfigures our contemporary—primarily urban—landscape. Her focus on describing ‘place’ stems from an interest in urban planning, architecture and anthropology and it has been fueled by time spent working and traveling in different landscapes. López has received support for her work through a NYFA Fellowship in Drawing/Printmaking/Book Arts and a grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, among others. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally.
Like Ellen Lanyon, Melissa Miller is a printmaker who is inspired by the natural world. She grew up on a ranch in Texas where she first started painting animals into her landscape paintings. In her prints, Miller portrays animals as individual characters and in relation to one another. In prints like Fossil, the interrelationships of various species is explored. A horse, fish, bird and a cricket are hierarchically arranged and superposed on a tree truck which sits in a pool of green water. The lithograph suggests the evolution of species and their interconnectedness.
Alice Neel was an American painter known for her Expressionistic portraits of her friends, family, and lovers. Her dynamic use of color and line captured the interior emotional life of her sitters, lending a psychological weight to her subject matter rather than just a likeness of the model. “Whether I’m painting or not, I have this overwhelming interest in humanity,” she explained. “Even if I’m not working, I’m still analyzing people.” Born on January 28, 1900 in Merion Square, PA, she was brought up in a strict middle-class family who did not support her decision to become an artist. Neel nevertheless went on to study at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women in 1921. Losing her infant daughter to disease following her move from Cuba to New York with her husband traumatically altered her life and outlook, setting the precedent for her work’s latent focus on motherhood, loss, and anxiety.
The Portuguese painter and printmaker Paula Rego grew up immersed in a storytelling tradition; subsequently, her work often is based on complex figural narratives. She creates bold and powerful images while also not shying away from controversial issues. Her works from the 1960s are collage-based and respond to Portugal’s political climate; in the late 1990s, she addressed the issue of abortion. There is a traumatic, sinister or underlying quality emphasizing malicious domination or the subversion of natural order in Rego’s prints which can also be autobiographical.
JoAnna Poehlmann, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, creates graphite drawings, etchings, lithographs, watercolor, mixed media sculptures, and artist books centered around the natural world and the beauty and humor she observes within it. Her work resonates with art historical figures, such as Albrecht Dürer or John Audubon, and she painstakingly focuses on every aspect of her subject. Poehlmann studied at the Layton School of Art, Marquette University, and the University of Wisconsin, all in Milwaukee. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally at a variety of libraries and museums. Her works are in several major collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Museum of Modern Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Walker Art Center, College of William and Mary, Duke University, Milwaukee Art Museum, and New York Public Library.
Best known for her assemblages, collages and mixed media constructions, Betye Saar also has been a respected printmaker since the 1960s. Her work often deals with the occult or challenges racist myths and stereotypes. Influenced by Joseph Cornell, in 1968 Saar began combining found objects, arranged within boxes and windows, with references to voodoo and mysticism. In prints like The Long Memory (1998) she continues to explore this idea of mysticism. The color screenprint looks deceivingly like one of her assemblage boxes. She even imitates the wooden box frame, forcing the viewer to question whether the image is in two or three dimensions.
Image courtesy of Roberts & Tilton
Kiki Smith, daughter of the American sculptor Tony Smith, is an artist who works in all media. As a child, she helped her father make cardboard models of his work, but admits to having been influenced more by his female contemporaries Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse and Lee Bontecou. Smith’s bronze and wax sculpture concentrates on the human form, specifically the female body while her graphic work is more encyclopedic. Since the late 1970s, Smith has been an unconventional and innovative printmaker. She incorporates animals, domestic objects, classical mythology and folk tales in her prints.
“It’s just disgusting that in this society, the majority of students in art school are women, but they amount to less than 30% of what is shown in museums.
That has not changed radically.” — Kiki Smith
Kiki Smith by Nina Subin. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Creative Commons
Kara Walker has an international reputation for addressing themes of race, gender and sexuality in American history utilizing the Victorian silhouette technique. For Walker, the silhouette is like the stereotype–it reduces the complexities of an individual to a simplified and easily identifiable form. She illustrates racial stereotypes in black and white, the two most diametrically opposed colors. Walker focuses on the folklore of the antebellum South. Based on historic imagery, her work deals, in particular, with the struggles of African American women. Her figures range from nightmarish to revengeful. They are presented freeze-frame, leaving the viewer to complete the story.