Class, artists find cohesion in ancient tradition of printmaking

- photo by Ryan Gerdes/Graphics/arts designer

Casey Tharp

The view in the Miller Fine Arts Center this week is as varied as the weather outside.

Students in Professor Ron Mills’ Printmaking class have art prints on display ranging in subject from the natural to the industrial, portraits to words, abstract to myth. The show will be exhibited in the studio gallery until April 26.

Mills said students are set to cover more than 600 years of printmaking history this semester, excluding learning about only two processes from the dozens that exist. He said the show reflects roughly half of the overall number of processes the students will work with in the class.

Mills said the idea of the show is for students to look at their pieces as a whole, working to create coherence throughout the semester. This is apparent in the show.

Studio Gallery Director Justin Alpern said he tried to emphasize the cohesion of each student’s work, placing their selections together and making sure the matting was the same color and size for a single artist’s pieces. Each artist has three to four pieces on display.

However, the emphasis is not focused entirely on independence. Mills said in a
studio class there is generally a chemistry, and this group in particular has a high energy and awareness; they bring out the best in each other.

The mix of beginning students, intermediate printmakers and an experienced teacher‘s assistant—junior Laura Johnson—makes for what Mills calls mentoring opportunities. This creates a camaraderie in processes that require more than one person to complete.

Junior Zach Mitlas said the displayed pieces are largely reflective of work the artists are doing as a whole. For Mitlas, ideas for his printmaking have come out of his experience in painting. In working with new tools and processes, new possibilities emerge reciprocally for both mediums.

Printmaking is a challenging art, requiring artists to think creatively to apply it to their ideas. Mitlas said the exposure to printmaking has helped him move forward in painting by forcing him to bring a different, demanding medium together with his work.

The variety of printmaking processes taught is meant to provide the artists with possibilities.

“Mills is trying to expose us to a vast array of techniques,” Mitlas said. “Not so we can fully develop them all, but so we can find the one that fits the work.”

Mills said one reason he wanted to teach the class is because of the vast history of printmaking. Furthering the tradition of an art dating back to the Middle Ages is something he said he believes is important.

Mills said there are challenges in remaining true to tradition, such as using inks that meet toxin regulations, but it is important for students to be exposed to this art. He said he wants to give something back and pass it along.

Cohesion, a word often heard when talking with those involved in the show, has become the theme. It is present in the arrangement of the show; apparent in each artist’s work on display; and infused in the students’ application of this age-old art to their own themes and inspirations, past and present together.

 

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