By E.L. Marcus
I recently had an argument with a co-worker about a school levy. “Teachers get paid enough as it is—some of them make more than me, and I work 12 months a year!” To this I answered that I didn’t mean to disrespect our work, but it’s rare that clerking helps to shape minds, create opportunities for achievement and instill a love for science, music or history. In the case of “Chicks With Big Rollers,” all five women represented were united under the tutelage of OSU printmaking instructor Charles Massey. Although they were not all in class together, or even during the same period, “[he] brought all of us together throughout an extended period of time. He instilled a love for printmaking in us,” says Kathy McGhee.
Curator and exhibitor Sophie Knee says, “Printmaking is awesome because it overlaps a lot of different areas…. It can be whatever you need it to be.” Fellow artist Mariana Smith says, “Printmaking is under appreciated because people don’t realize what a rich medium it is. That is why I like this show because we’re unpacking what printmaking can offer.” I was able to meet with all five of the “Chicks”, to see what, exactly, is being offered.
Ms. Hilario graduated from The Ohio State University’s printmaking program just two years ago. Faced with the difficulty in continuing to make prints after college without access to a press, she is quick to take advantage of OSU’s many workshopping opportunities. During these, she works fast and furious, because she knows she must. Her approach is unconventional. “Most of what I do involves making a large quantity of monoprints, and then I move into collage and sculpture [from there].” Ms. Hilario begins with large sheets, printed in a single color and then splashed with solvent for texture. Afterwards, she cuts small component pieces from templates and creates three-dimensional objects, like her series of pigeons. She likes to call them a “constructed monoprint” or “monoprint collages.”
Her subjects typically feature people she’s met both at home and away. One of her subjects, James, is a former neighbor. His face is precisely stencil-cut from one large, white sheet and displayed shadow-box style over a print reminiscent of parcels of land in an aerial view. “I like the idea of the connection between pieces of land and pieces of a person and then drawing their story together,” she says.
Though not a former student, she is the current spouse of Charles Massey. Having earned her MFA in drawing and printmaking from the University of Georgia, the two united over their shared love of the medium.
A one-time high school art teacher, Ms. Massey is now a volunteer at Ohio State’s agricultural campus, where she serves as Chadwick Arboretum’s photographer. “I shoot events and the various gardens and all kinds of [plants] on campus. I just try to make eye candy and it’s not hard to do because it’s all gorgeous!” she laughs.
Ms. Massey also serves on a tree committee, whose principal concern is ensuring the well-being of the trees on campus. Her subjects are mostly plant-based in nature. Her monoprints are simple, almost like botanical plates. She finishes her prints with gouache and colored pencil, most effectively used in her “Ballistic Dispersal” print, which illustrates the method by which ferns multiply.
Ms. Knee grew up in the United Kingdom and knew she wanted to be an artist ever since she was a little kid. “In my school, art was ‘just painting’, that’s all anyone ever did. I didn’t know about printmaking until I came to Ohio State. Printmaking really got under my skin,” she says, “Even now, when I paint, I think about putting the paint down in layers. It really appeals to my brain.”
Her great love of color is evidenced in her cheerfully bright prints. Her method involves drawing out her subject on a smaller scale, and then blowing them up for print. She only prints the outlines, and then she colors the print in, much as one might a coloring book. “I like to leave some areas unpainted. I find that the ‘naked’ paper is very compelling,” she explains.
Her coloring book style and preference for animal subjects make it no surprise that some of her biggest fans are children! “I gave a print to a friend of mine for her baby, and she called me up and told me, ‘Sophie, he just can’t stop looking at it and smiling!” she beams.
Printmaking was Ms. Smith’s second degree, earned at the Columbus College of Art and Design. Having gained access to a big press, Ms. Smith fell in love with working in a larger scale.
Her work is predominantly white, allowing her to focus on subtle experimentation with solvents and textures. Her video installation features several large scrolls, suspended from the ceiling, upon which a video of a cottages window in the forest is projected, through that self-same window. Her installations are a play on the layering so integral to printmaking, but takes it one step further to layer things throughout both space and time. “You would never think of two-dimensional work and videos coexisting, so I like to make them talk to each other to resolve that dilemma,” she explains. “There are reflections, surfaces and displayed surfaces. Each surface is another reference to the ones above and below it. I like to have the identity of my surfaces fluctuate.”
Carrying the teaching torch (along with fellow faculty member and exhibitor Kathy McGhee), she passes along her love of printmaking at CCAD. “I love the process,” she says. “I think all printmakers do.”
In her undergraduate years, Ms. McGhee specialized in plant biology. It wasn’t until later in her educational career that she fell in love with printmaking. “It’s a lot of logic and thinking through, it appealed to the science-lover in me,” she says.
Now an instructor of printmaking at CCAD, she has constant access to a large press of which she is very fond. Ms. McGhee specializes in intaglio and relief, and has newly begun creating prints with solar plates. “Photogravure is amazing because it provides this great, continuous tone, unlike other printmaking techniques that use half-tone dots.”
Her stark prints of icy ponds and deserted fields have a compelling creamy texture in shades of sepia and bluish black. Her other specialty is highly detailed, large-scale lithographs. She chooses not to ink sections of her tile, resulting in a subtle, embossed texture in the negative space of her print.
“Chicks With Big Rollers” is a show between friends, but these artists are mostly excited about their show because they are true devotees to their medium. They hope to challenge assumptions about printmaking and act as advocates for the craft. If you think printmaking is about pressing off a bunch of numbered editions, your visit to this exhibition will undoubtedly open you to just how versatile a simple press can be.