The search for truth and beauty:
"Karen Kunc + Monika Meler: PrintAustin 2017"
"Engaged in Conversation"
"Marc Burckhardt's Notes to Self"
Painting Petrarch's Triumphs
The Virginia Quarterly Review
Recently, painter Marc Burckhardt has been in a deep "visual conversation" with literature—specifically, with Petrarch's Triumphs, a sequence of poems from the Italian Renaissance in which Love, Chastity, Death, Fame, Time, and Eternity each overcomes the other. Burckhardt first came across Triumphs nearly a year ago, while working on a series based on Dante's Inferno. As he often does with literary works, he looked into their visual history, and in doing so found "a deep well of imagery—stuff I recognized through a kind of peripheral appreciation." Since then, working between studios in Austin, Texas, and Bremen, Germany, he's has been studying, sketching, crumpling sketches, starting over, and taking notes for a series of allegorical paintings that reflect his personal connection to Petrarch's themes, to be included in an October show at Gallery Shoal Creek, in Austin, Texas.
Summertime with French and Italian Flavor
Where do summer travels take you? For Vancouver artist Jennifer Bell and her husband Tonio Creanza, it is southern France and Italy's heel of the boot. Bell delights our senses as she captures on canvas the narratives of country life in these regions.
Altamura, Tonio's native land, is a short distance from three coastlines, making outings to the beach a favorite summer pastime. Bell narrates the leisure and working lifestyles in her painting Mothers, Babies, Nannies. The rich agrarian region located on the old Appian Way is steeped in culinary history. Whether it be wine, cheese or olive oil, family producers take pride in showcasing their bounty in market settings as recounted in Vignerons—Wine Tastings at the Market.
Each summer, Tonio, founder and director of Messors, directs art restoration, conservation and culinary heritage workshops—authentic, stimulating experiences that focus on local culture, archaeology and artistic treasures.
Journalist Ward Lauren shared his adventure in a Los Angeles Times article, "I had come to the hilltop city of Altamura in southeastern Italy for a working vacation. It turned out to provide more historical and cultural enrichment than a month of guided tours. I would be working with Messors, a group of Altamurans dedicated to revitalizing historic sites in Puglia...we all departed with a deep sense of pride, knowing we had helped preserve a bit of history."
In 2015, Creanza and Bell took Messors "on the road" to southern France. In From the Department of Monuments, Bell shares the often frustrating process of getting permits to begin restoration work at Château de Gudanes. Other road trips are planned for the future and are certain to appear in Bell's narrative paintings
Find more details about the on location workshops online: www.messors.com
KOICHI YAMAMOTO / Travels + Award
Master printmaker Koichi Yamamoto launched 2016 in Hawaii. He attended the opening of a group exhibition, Statements of Nature, a survey of work by eight highly regarded printmakers organized by the Maui Art and Cultural Center. While there, he participated in the Visiting Artist Program at the Hui No'eau Visual Art Center, conducting a workshop on Transparent Monotypes.
He returned just in time to arrive in Austin to take part in PrintAustin 2016. The Sunday afternoon event presented four accomplished, nationally recognized printmakers in this special educational component of PrintAustin. He drew a crowd as he shared his insight into his complex work. His current series implements chine-collé to merge detail with spontaneity as multi-plate, symmetrical engravings are combined with large-scale, expressive monotypes.
While traveling, Koichi received exciting news from the Leonardo Sciascia Prize Amateur d'Estampes, the prestigious exhibition organized in Milan, Italy. His print, Shimobukure, accepted in the 8th edition of the juried exhibition—which has traveled throughout Europe for two years and returns to Milan for its final showing—was awarded special recognition. The awards ceremony will be held in February, and Koichi's print will be donated to the permanent collection of the Civica Raccolta di Stampe Achille Bertarelli in Milan. Bravo, Koichi!
Artists in the News
KAREN KUNC / Oscillation Shift
Prix de Print Winner
Oscillation Shift renews itself each time I look at it. The blue is compelling but not overly amiable—it can turn edgy in an instant. The circles reestablish new sets of relationships while you’re looking at them and never come close to settling into a pattern. Kunc understands the territory that is the surface of a print. She can take a sheet of paper and make it live.
Click here to read full article.
5 DECADES / What a Celebration It Was!
Artists, collectors, friends and others gathered on September 18 and 19 to celebrate Gallery Shoal Creek's 50th anniversary with an exhibition and events that commemorate the gallery's history and the people who made it; along the way, we found time to look to the future and the gallery's continued success
excepts from Austin's Gallery Shoal Creek celebrates its 50th anniversary
By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
As a child growing up in the University Hills neighborhood, Karen Hawkins eagerly awaited the day when the bookmobile arrived.
The thrill of perusing books in the small confines of the transitory library left an indelible impression.
"I just loved to read. And books took me everywhere," Hawkins says. "And the bookmobile always felt like it was made for me — it was just my size."
Now, with a solo presentation of her sculptural work made from vintage and discarded volumes at Gallery Shoal Creek, Hawkins pays homage to the book.
"I see (my work) as reverence to this object that is gradually disappearing," she says. (And she admits to dreaming of finding a 1960s bookmobile, refurbishing it to be a roving art gallery of her book-related art.)
Most arresting in the current exhibition is "Totem Installation," a forest of 14 pole-like sculptures that hang from the ceiling. Ranging in length from 8 to 10 feet, each is a string of delicate geometric objects crafted from books whose pages have been exquisitely folded and reformed. Hawkins removes a book's cover, fanning the pages inside out to form an orb before carefully plaiting each page.
One hanging totem is made from old volumes of music scores. A couple are crafted out of University of Texas yearbooks from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Wander through "Totem Installation" and the musty, nostalgia-laden aroma of old books surrounds you while shadows cast by the geometric forms make for a delightful illusory effect.
"I was always fascinated by the book as an object, too, not just as something to read," says Hawkins on a recent walk through the gallery. "I like the way books feel, I like the way they smell."
Elsewhere in the gallery hangs a rectangular grid made of, as Hawkins calls them, book bricks: Hunks of book spines, covers removed to reveal the details of a book's binding, the stitched-together pages and the layer of leather or paper used underneath a hardcover book's spine.
Hawkins dips the bricks in beeswax before assembling them in wooden frames, the neatly lined arrangement more than subtly suggesting the lines of text on a page. So do two rectilinear collages of neat strips of book covers: One is made of varying shades of red, the other of blue; each is shot through with lines of yellow like highlighted text.
Hawkins haunts estate sales, used bookstores and flea markets to gather books, primarily selecting volumes for their visual appeal and physical properties.
Of course, then there was that 1917 encyclopedia set she found at an estate sale.
Each volume of it bulged with a lifetime of paper ephemera that had been neatly stashed between the pages. Hawkins discovered receipts from livestock sales, carbon copies of typed letters, pages from financial ledgers, snippets from magazines and myriad other documents.
She took that paper ephemera and neatly fringed it, creating a fluttering collage, again arranged in page-like form. She titled the piece "A Personal Narrative."
"They had to be important to somebody," Hawkins says of the encyclopedia inserts. "They form somebody's personal narrative."
Hawkins, who turns 50 this year, makes something of her debut with her show at Gallery Shoal Creek. It's her first foray into exhibiting with a professional gallery.
"I did things a bit backwards," she says with a smile.
Hawkins went to college, completing a bachelor of fine arts at the University of Texas a few years ago, after raising five children with her husband, pharmaceutical industry entrepreneur Rick Hawkins.
Currently a board member of nonprofit arts organization Women & Their Work, Hawkins credits artist-professors Margo Sawyer and Beili Liu — who both create cerebral installations of delicate beauty — with having an enormous influence on her own work.
And she credits her grandmother, too, with inspiring and fostering the desire to make and create.
An avid quilter, her grandmother, Hawkins explains, would take the extra squares of fabric and, after stacking them together, roll them up tidily.
"She called them 'jellyrolls' and I remember loving the patterns of the colorful layers of fabric all neatly stacked up," Hawkins says.
So she made similar "jellyrolls" of book pages — some 1,500 to be exact, each no more than a couple of inches long and a tight roll, the colors of page ends forming variegated swirls. All are arranged in an arbitrary fashion on the gallery wall.
"There's a meditative aspect to the repetition of making that I love," Hawkins says. "It's about the process for me — the step-by-step action done again and again. And I'm proud of the things women have always made — we should be."
NICE, LONG SPACES
by CLAIBORNE SMITH
Writer and journalist S.C. "Sam" Gwynne grew up in Connecticut; his wife, artist Katie Maratta, grew up in West Virginia. Those places must seem somewhat foreign to them now, so tied to Texas they've become. The couple first fell in love with the West when they moved to Truth or Consequences, NM so that Sam could work on an investigative book he was writing at the time about the corrupt bank BCCI with his then-writing partner, Jonathan Beaty. If you've ever been to Truth or Consequences, you know that it is a little, depressed town, but that didn't matter to Gwynne or Maratta. It was the vastness and beauty of the place that hooked them. They both live in Austin now, and arrived here in an almost random way.
Now that they are here, they have become two of the most respected interpreters of the West working today. Gwynne, who writes for Texas Monthly, is the bestselling author of Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. Gwynne managed to take a story–the abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker in the 1800s and her eventual, tragic return to white society– that had been written about many times before and make it seem fresh, partly because he expands the story of Parker's kidnapping into the broader history of the entire Comanche tribe.
Maratta's "horizonscapes," as she calls them, are intimate, almost eerie recreations of epically flat West Texas land. Maratta uses graphite pencils to draw long landscapes across an elongated panel that is usually only one inch high: the effect is to cause the viewer to scrunch their eyes up as they approach her art to detect the small, telling details (a run-down taxidermy store, a tiny Dairy Queen sign) anyone from West Texas would immediately recognize. Because her pieces are up to 48 inches in length, though, the feeling of Maratta's work isn't at all small. It's a canny and poetic recreation of the feeling this East Coast native gets when she hangs out in West Texas.
I talked to Gwynne and Maratta over dinner recently about why they first came to Texas, and why they've stayed.
KM: We were living in New York and Sam was a business editor at TIME magazine. You started on Tuesdays, working eight hours and then by the end of the week, you were spending the night in New York City to close the magazine by Saturday. It was a brutal schedule. We had just had a little baby and were living in Larchmont and my parents said, 'You would be getting more help if you had just checked into a home for unwed mothers.' Sam was just not around. When he got home, he was exhausted.
SG: It was the actual 80-hour work week. K M : There were many, many divorces at that magazine. SG: Alcoholism and divorces, usually both.
KM: The good thing back then was that TIME had a bunch of bureaus and you could walk in and say, 'The New York thing isn't working for us' and in Sam's case, they said, 'We have Houston' and we said, 'Okay, we'll take Houston.' And then all of Sam's friends said, 'If you're going to live in Texas, you need to live in Austin.'
SG: The only issue TIME had was, 'How quickly can you get to a plane to cover a story?' They said yes, so we showed up here, sight unseen. We drive in through Palestine and then we come down and we drive in on I-35, driving south, and we said, 'Oh God, what have we done? It's just like south L.A. or Detroit.'
KM: That wasn't the way we should have come into town. We had lived in Truth or Consequences, NM for about six months while Sam was working on a book about BCCI, the "outlaw bank." It was a little sabbatical out there. It was so fun, we just thought, 'Anything that gets us closer to there would be a good thing.'
SG: [My writing partner at the time] Jonathan and I had an office on Main Street where we wrote our book.
KM: At one point, I took the dog for a walk and I get back to the house; the yard is full of police cars. I'm like, 'What is going on?' And they said they couldn't find Sam or Jonathan. TIME magazine couldn't find them.
SG: This was a story about a bank that killed people.
KM: There was a certain nefarious side to this and they'd gone to their office downtown and there was hot coffee in cups, cigarettes burning in ashtrays, doors unlocked, computers on. But no Sam and no Jonathan.
SG: And what happened was, we'd been working closely with Robert Morgenthau, the New York district attorney, on this story and Morgenthau pulled the chain. Morgenthau is a big deal. We got a big advance on this book and Jonathan bought a boat with it and he shows up at the office with this brand new Wellcraft and he's dying to show it off and we just got in the car to go see the boat.
Sam started working on The Empire of the Summer Moon in 2005. They describe their mutual love and fascination with West Texas as a kind of aesthetic accident.
KM: We ended up covering a lot of the same ground.
SG: I'm writing about West Texas and she's making art about it. It was not planned. Didn't even occur to me until a few years ago.
KM: It's not just Texas, it's mythic Texas. It's everybody's iconic Texas.
SG: I'm sure Nacogdoches is somebody's idea of iconic, but it doesn't seem that way to us. For us Yankees, it's West Texas.
KM: It still gets to me, the landscape and the sky.
SG: Katie grew up in a vertical land and I grew up near the ocean. It's the opposite of where she grew up and it reminds me of the ocean. Joe Ely said that in Lubbock, it's so flat that you can see 20 miles in any direction and if you stand on a tuna fish can, you can see 50.
KM: I realized I'd never really seen the horizon until I got to Texas. It doesn't exist on the East Coast unless you go to the ocean. The ocean is stunning, it's pretty powerful, but it's better when it's land.
K M : When Sam and I go out to West Texas, Sam's my chauffeur but I go out by myself too and we head out on these roads and just head out in a direction. It's great to have GPS and AAA to tow you out of ditches. I make photographs and sketches. I can't tell you how many people have come up to me and said [about her finished artwork], 'That's my grandmother's house.'
I'm pretty sure it's not but there's a certain style, early ranch style, boarded house with a porch, a couple of trees. It is all over West Texas. Sometimes it has its own water tank, sometimes there are cows in the front yard. These places are so eternal. They're very poetic. They're extremely powerful little moments on the edge of this nothing. It's just miles and miles of nothing and you see this little porch light and you see this little house with the wash in the side yard. It's really evocative.
SG: But what you get, what you end up with, in the artwork is an idealized landscape. Elements exist–that fence line exists, that field may exist sort of, but Katie modifies things, too. I watched her do a tumbleweed from scratch, from nothing. What happens is you get a recombination of things. That silo was not next to that fence line, which was not next to that cow. So you get an idealized landscape. It is idealized because people in Texas who grew up there see it that way.
KM: And I'm not doing portraits. I came out of cartooning out of college and I was doing a lot of cartooning professionally and after the newspapers started to tank and I got out of cartooning, I thought, 'What am I going to do?' I knew I was going to do art, but what kind of art? I did some sculpting and painting classes and it's so funny to come all the way back around to a black-and-white horizontal narrative, which is basically what cartoon is only it's a little story line with punch lines.
I always had to put the punch line at the end in a cartoon but it's basically the same format. That's what I like about these pieces. I'm not restricted to a certain 1-2-3; I can have nice, long spaces where nothing is happening. I find all those broken-down ranch houses to be enormously appealing.
KOZO PAPER / Handmade and favored by artists
Known for her abstracted woodcut prints, Karen Kunc has a preference for Japanese kozo papers made from long-fibered mulberry bark. The lush exuberance of her saturated colors bleeding off the deckled-edges of these papers are just one of the traits that distinguish her work.
A recent article in the New York Times Magazine, Can a Papermaker Help to Save Civilization, by Mark Levine, gives insight into the process of making the type papers that Kunc and others favor. The article explores the story of Timothy Barrett and his passion for preserving the ancient processes. Barrett has spent a lifetime unlocking the mysteries of paper. The article is a great read and a must for anyone who enjoys works on paper, rare books, or the conservation of historic documents.
Can a Papermaker Help to Save Civilization? [ excerpt from New York Times Magazine, Feb 19, 2012]
Each November, a papermaker named Timothy Barrett gathers a group of friends and students on the grounds of the University of Iowa Research Park, a onetime tuberculosis sanitarium in Coralville, Iowa, for what he bills as a harvest event. Armed with hook-shaped knives, Barrett and his party hack away at a grove of bare, shrublike trees called kozo, a Japanese relative of the common mulberry. At his nearby studio, which is housed in the former sanitarium's laundry facility, the bundles of cut kozo are steamed in a steel caldron to loosen the bark. After the bark is stripped from the kozo, it is hung on racks, where it shrivels to a crisp over a matter of days. Eventually the bark is rehydrated and sliced apart from its middle, "green" layer, and that layer, in turn, is sheared from the prized inner layer. It takes about a hundred pounds of harvested kozo trees to yield eight pounds of this "white bark," from which Barrett will ultimately make a few hundred sheets of what connoisseurs consider to be some of the world's most perfect paper.