Posts from — January 2013
“Heart” Color etching. 5″x7″
Printmaker with Heart in Texas
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by A. J. Stephens
After visiting Rebecca McGinnis in her studio space at Slugfest Printmaking Workshop during November’s EAST (East Austin Studio Tour) festival, we arranged to meet and talk about her artwork. I arrived late for our scheduled confab at the local coffee shop where we originally became acquainted, and soon discovered more about her enigmatic precision in communicating intangible emotion and concept. She was inspired to turn to printmaking in 2009 during her study of design and painting at Florida State, and was further inspired by the early efforts of studios like Drive By Press to reinvigorate a young audience’s respect for the art form. She has since cultivated her own relationship with expression through this medium.
Rebecca’s current body of work explores the mind-body connection, a theme that resonates with her interest “…in the deep complexity of human emotion…,” and particular curiosity “…about the reactions happening below the surface, subverted to the subconscious.” In her work, she explores “…the connections between the physical and the abstract world of emotions and create[s] metaphors referencing nature and science to describe our inner workings.” For this vision, what more perfect medium exists than one that, from its own intrinsic qualities, mirrors the artistry it enables her to channel: Printmaking.
McGinnis was generous in discussion, and encouraged the possibility that I would grasp the alchemy of it all —not something I could ultimately feign, despite my efforts. She remained committed, and patiently shared how an asphaltum wax, brushed on the copper, at once inputs and shields her vision for each copper plate from the ferric chloride that will eventually carve out the relief where the wax is absent. There is a science to this medium, but one that printmakers internalize as the natural tools available for creation.
From her background in painting, a medium with which I am more familiar, Rebecca added that there could be an analogous idea that printmaking is like “painting backwards”— the artist must first create negative space on the plate, however. Somehow, this made more sense to me. She went on to explain that during the process of etching the plate, she has not yet thought about the eventual color applications she will use in the future, that the depth of each section will impact the weight of ink and richness of color & shade transposed onto the paper, that only through unpredictable, possibly innumerable cycles of negotiation between etching-refining-burnishing-and-etching-again, can the relief take form.
“Cross Current” Color etching. 9″x12″
Finding her vision within the copper plate is only a step in the process of creation. Once the plate is ready to bring life into the world, the trials and trust begin. Most printmakers follow a tradition of using black-ink, but Rebecca favors the less conventional use or incorporation of color—which provides a vibrant quality familiar to her from her painting background. Sometimes, it is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat because, she shared, one never knows what comes out from the press: how did the ink take (or, not take) to the paper; what colors adhered or mixed as envisioned; were the contrasts achieved; was an unexpected result more than she could have hoped for? If not, back to the wells and wax. Or, maybe it’s just a matter of trying a different combination of color; a new solid color; or letting the plate rest. Certain patience and deliberation are required: often, the copper has a mind of its own, and a lifespan.
There cannot be too many trials. Each print must not, in fact, be considered a trial at all. Rather, each print is one of few given to the world. Eventually, the plate will run out. This “mortality,” Rebecca shares, makes the process bittersweet— eventually she must put it down after it has run its course, and each plate is different. Rebecca’s work leaves behind (or, sets free) impressions that can be shared without words and taken by each visitor into her world as they find them.
When I left Slugfest I did so with a small new piece for my collection, kept safe between the hard covers of my school texts: Heart. I had seen it on the flyer announcing the festival, but never would have imagined how the actual print might look or feel in person. Anticipating that each print would be unique and would resonate with different people for different reasons, I had difficulty figuring out why I was so moved by the particular version I adopted: its subtle harmony of color and a shadowy set of contrasts that strike a perfect chord. It was confusing.
At our follow-up meeting I heard of Rebecca’s hope “…to alert, orient, or empathize with someone else in their own uncertain journey, and to celebrate the exhausting and everlasting shared challenge of finding one’s own way.”
Maybe I hadn’t been able reconcile my reaction to the small print on my shelf because I am still learning about the piece itself — that it is not just a print, but a conversation as well. Upon speaking with Rebecca, I knew I was lucky to have met an artist who can still—at that stage of expected enthusiasm and incredible freedom—so delicately move between alchemy and art; and who recognizes the emotion and intellect of a conversation to which she welcomes each viewer, appreciator, or supporter.
January 13, 2013 Comments Off on Austin Art: Rebecca McGinnis