When Maddie Miller talks about the upcoming exhibition at Artlink, she’s speaking not only as the gallery coordinator but also as an artist herself.
“I think this year’s exhibition is one of the best ones we’ve had over the years,” Miller said of the 39th National Print Exhibition, opening Friday, March 29.
Artlink Executive Director Matt McClure agrees, noting that the exhibition, featuring work from all across the country, is now one of the longest running at the gallery.
Spotlight on printmakers
“In the early days of Artlink, the founding group really had a strong passion for print exhibitions,” McClure explained. “Over the 40 years of the organization, that has become this grand tradition and grown from a small exhibition to a nationally recognized exhibition of printmakers from around the country.”
The exhibition showcases an artform that has evolved over the years yet remains true to its roots.
At its most basic, printmaking involves ink and paper, but it’s much more than that.
“When we talk about printmaking, we are referring to traditional printmaking forms, like letterpress, lithography, etching, screen printing, and more,” Miller said. “Printmaking was originally a way to communicate through books and posters. Printmaking is based on multiplicity, allowing for many copies of an image or text to be produced.
“Printmaking has really had a long history and I think that’s part of the interest. These are artists that are creating really beautiful work, through the concepts that inspire them and the detail that they put in their images. I think this is why people want to come back to see this exhibition year after year. There is always something new and different.”
Printmaking is a very tedious process. Miller, a Fort Wayne native who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Western Michigan University’s Gwen Frostic School of Art, enjoys the repetition and the attention to detail.
“Other mediums are very direct, pencil to paper, and you can see exactly where you are going as you create the work of art,” she said. “With printmaking, there are so many variables at play that could change the end result of the work. If the pressure of the press is off slightly or you didn’t roll the inking brayer over the block as many times as the last, the entire print could change. It is tedious, because when you are working in editioned prints as most printmakers do, the goal is to have a grouping of identical prints. This is where the process really comes into play, through repetition, after the plate — woodblock, copper plate, lithograph stone, etc. — has been completed.”
Sharing the process
Whether it’s a more traditional technique or one that’s current and cutting-edge, Artlink executives don’t just want to show off the final products created by the printmakers. They share the processes with visitors to give them a better sense of the work that goes into each one.
“We always try to include some kind of educational component to teach people about how those methods are made and how people create these prints,” Miller said.
“In addition to the exhibition itself, there’s a month-long series of special events that celebrate print processes,” added McClure. “There are workshops as well as several lectures all focusing on print. It’s a really special time in which we celebrate this unique medium.”
Miller is one of more than five dozen artists to have her work in the exhibition, which runs through May 3 at Artlink at 300 E. Main St. in Fort Wayne. Pieces are selected from all over the country.
“Everybody has to apply to the exhibition and there’s a blind jurying process, so we have a juror, and she got the fun task of receiving over 200 entries for the exhibition and had to narrow it down to 65,” Miller said. “It’s a really interesting task to look at photographs of these images and narrow it down to the small grouping that will actually be in the gallery for the exhibition.”
She’s excited to be part of the exhibition and loves the fact that the artform is alive and well in Fort Wayne.
“There are a lot of printmakers, even locally,” Miller said. “We have printmaking programs at both of the universities in Fort Wayne, but all around the United States and the world, people are practicing this medium and are really in love with the process.”
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