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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment November 19, 2018

11/6/2018 12:41:00 PM
Three printmakers show work at Sisters Library
Printmakers Robin Thomas and Carolyn Platt. photo by Helen Schmidling
+ click to enlarge
Printmakers Robin Thomas and Carolyn Platt. photo by Helen Schmidling

By Helen Schmidling

This month, prints made by three artists, each using different processes, are hanging in the Sisters Library.

Katie Newton's "Lumen Landscapes" depict microcosms within the Pacific Northwest's natural beauty. Lumen printing relies on three things: physical objects, photographic paper, and the sun. The prints capture the afterimage of organic materials - pinecones, pine needles, Sitka spruce bark, ferns, branches, or blossoms - as they fall onto the photographic paper, on the ground. These objects leave a photographic trace that Newton develops and fixes in the darkroom, toning with selenium to bring out golden warmth.

This particular collection was made near Pistol River on the Southern Oregon coast. A single black-and-white photograph created as a silver gelatin print, called "Forest Dinner Party," shows the area of the forest where Newton laid out and created her Lumen Landscapes. It connects the lumen prints with the actual landscape. The prints in the library are digital scans of a portion of the original large grid. The original images are on display this month in the Betty Feves Gallery at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, as part of a two-person show depicting Oregon's vanishing landscapes.

Newton, a Redmond resident, is the public services specialist at the Sisters Library, has a BFA in photography from the University of Oregon. She shoots both film and digital, and owns several cameras including an 8-by-10 view camera from 1910.

The Community Room has a display of collographic prints by Robin Thomas and original monotypes by Carolyn Platt.

Collagraphy is a printmaking process in which materials are applied to a rigid substrate. The word is derived from the Greek koll or kola, meaning glue, and graph, meaning drawing. The rigid plate can be intaglio-inked, inked with a roller, or painted with a paintbrush, or some combination thereof.

Thomas describes her process as building a collage, but backwards. She works from drawings, on a light table, building layers of materials, that include clothing from second-hand stores, drapery fabric, lace, string, or embossed papers, anything with a texture. Everything is laid out in reverse, and once she's happy with the composition, Thomas pulls out her paintbrushes and goes for it. The process of mixing colors then hand-painting the plate can take two or three hours, before even pulling a print. The rollover captures both the color and the textures Thomas created on her plate. Each plate can be re-used, but each print will be different.

A native Oregonian, Thomas went to Pacific Northwest College of Art. She raised her two children in Sisters, and now lives in Bend. She creates and shows her work at Bend Art Center, where she continues to be amazed at how much fun printmaking is.

Carolyn Platt's prints are original monotypes, printed with soy-based ink on BFK rag paper. "I prefer loose rendering with the moving energy of marks," Platt says. Her work is like a dance. "What is the impulse, and where do you begin? ... When do you decide to start moving and dancing?"

Platt's prints suggest forces that move on a scale that could be either molecular or geological in scope.

"Sometimes, the beginning meandering of the marks might suggest something, but I don't want to force them into rendering that thing," she said. "I work flat, painting backwards on a plexiglass plate."

She adds and subtracts ink with a tool called a brayer. Playing with colors and textures, she tries to decide, "Is this plate press-worthy? What else can I do that won't overdo or kill it? The life and death of the print is in my hands!"

The next steps are technical, laying paper and blankets over the plate, and hand-rolling the plate through the press. Finally, it's time for the big reveal.

"Lifting back the blankets and peeling the print off the pile is magical," Platt says. "It's like opening a kiln, not knowing what might have happened since you set the object into it, or in this case, rolled it through the press."

Platt, a native of Utah, is a longtime resident of Sisters. She taught art at Sisters Middle School for nine years, and at Central Oregon Community College for 15 years. Like Thomas, she works at and shows her work in the Bend Art Center.

The Friends of Sisters Library's (FOSL) Art Committee organizes the monthly displays of art. Some of the work is for sale, and a portion of the sale price goes to support the library, through FOSL. The artwork can be seen during library hours, Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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