University of Alabama at Birmingham will join a trove available for sale to help support student scholarships.Works by three visiting contemporary artists created through a special program at the
Hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Art and Art History, the online store now features limited edition prints created through its visiting artist atelier program. The department has invited a diverse group of artists to participate in the series, including Guggenheim fellow David Sandlin, sculptor and conceptual artist Willie Cole, and California-based mixed-media artist Travis Somerville.
Since 2009, Associate Professor of Printmaking Derek Cracco, MFA, has led the visiting artist atelier program, connecting artists to UAB art students in the joint production of unique works of art. The program promotes historical and contemporary printmaking practices and introduces printmaking methods to artists whose works typically lie outside the medium. As part of the residency, Cracco offers intensive, one-on-one training to connect each artist’s research interests and aesthetics with his or her envisioned print concepts, and invites printmaking students to work with the visiting artist.
The projects are executed within the historic tradition of the artist’s atelier, French for workshop or studio, where young artists and artisans learn techniques and execute works under a master.
“This series gives UAB students the opportunity work alongside established artists by assisting in a project,” Cracco said. “As studio technicians, the students use their knowledge and skills, including relief, intaglio and planographic methods, to help each artist achieve his or her goals. Through these projects, the students are also challenged to creatively solve problems they may not usually face in their personal studio practices.
“It is always interesting to see how each visiting artist embraces the medium while approaching the processes of printmaking from different directions,” he said. Money raised from the sale of prints also will support the Visiting Artist and Scholar Series.
Sandlin, a UAB alumnus, worked closely with students to create an edition of colorful lithograph prints. Sized at 22 by 30 inches, the print was created by painting with inks, Xerox toners and paint pens onto transparency films. The films were then exposed to photographic lithography plates, one color at a time. The frenetic, science fiction cartoon-inspired image is typical of Sandlin’s style, used to express ideas of individual freedom and engage in social critique.
Cole, whose recent exhibition “Transformations” at UAB’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts featured works made from women’s shoes, discarded water bottles and matches, made two prints during his residency at UAB in 2011, and he also served as juror for the 36th annual Juried Student Exhibition. The prints reference the artist’s African-American heritage and feature a common motif in his work, the steam iron. In “Home Mark,” a 31-by-23-inch two-color print, a large-scale scorched iron mark is printed on a thin sheet of rice paper. The shadowy, modulated dark tones radiating from the scorch mark come from the spit bite process, in which the printer paints nitric acid directly on the metal print matrix to produce a brushed ink effect. Cole’s 32-by-25-inch two-color print “No Mas” combines line etching and aquatint with chine-collé, a technique in which thin, tissuelike paper is bonded to the printmaking paper under pressure of the printing press to create translucent layers.
Fifteenth-century line etching techniques merged with 21st-century digital technologies in Somerville’s “House Arrest.” To create the print, Somerville scanned found photographs and used an inkjet transfer paper to copy the image to printmaking paper. A traditional line etching produced by Somerville was then printed on top. As the artist worked on the etching, UAB advanced printmaking students assisted by operating the press, preparing papers and mixing inks.
Through printmaking, one of the most democratic art forms, these short-term residencies support UAB’s new Quality Enhancement Plan, which focuses on learning in a team environment, says UAB Department of Art and Art History Chair Lauren Lake, MFA.
“The Department of Art and Art History plans to continue to support the atelier program biennially, as part of the Visiting Artist and Scholar Series, which brings artists, critics, theorists and curators informed on a wide range of historical and contemporary art topics to the UAB campus and community,” Lake said.