Mayor Marty Walsh Proclaims November 20 ‘Corita Kent Day’


Corita Kent, handle with care, 1967. Screenprint. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Margaret Fisher Fund, 2012.186. © Courtesy of the Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, Los Angeles.

On Friday November 20, 2015, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh proclaimed November 20 as “Corita Kent Day” in the City of Boston. Corita Kent, the artist, Catholic nun, teacher and social and political activist inspired by Andy Warhol is the subject of two exhibitions at Harvard University—Corita Kent and the Language of Pop at the Harvard Art Museums and Corita Kent: Footnotes and Headlines at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

The proclamation by Marty Walsh comes on what would have been Corita Kent’s 97th birthday. Corita lived in Boston from 1968 until her death in 1986.

If you have ever seen the National Grid Gas Tank in Dorchester, you’ve seen a work by Corita Kent and may not have known it. If you haven’t seen the exhibits, Corita Kent and the Language of Pop features more than 60 of Kent’s screenprints exhibited alongside the works of many of her contemporaries, including Jim Dine, Marisol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha, Robert Indiana and others. The exhibit closes on January 03, 2016, so make sure you dress in your most colorful garments and celebrate the work of Corita Kent, the Museum may just even tweet at you.

On Teaching, Traveling and Nature: A Candid Conversation with Printmaker Selma Bromberg

Hostas. Image courtesy of the artist.Hostas. Image courtesy of the artist.

I met artist and printmaker Selma Bromberg while I was Program Director of the visual arts and crafts classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. In my position, I worked closely with Selma to make the printmaking program at CCAE one of the best programs in the greater Boston-area. An accomplished printmaker, Selma attended Smith College and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. At Smith, she studied with both Leonard Baskin and Elliot Offner. As a printmaker, Selma has left her mark on the Boston printmaking world, joining the Experimental Etching Studio in Boston at a very young age and lecturing on etching and woodcuts throughout the New England region. Her work is found in many collections, including the Harvard Art Museums (Fogg Museum), Worcester Art Museum, Boston Public Library, Smith College Library and in other numerous public and private art collections throughout the country. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally including at the Boston Public Library, Bromfield Gallery, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, Danforth Museum, Fuller Art Museum, the New York Society of Etchers and many other venues. I sat down with Selma in November to candidly talk about her work, teaching and her travels—which are central to her practice. This interview was conducted on Friday November 6, in the Vogt Studio at the Cambridge Center, where Selma has been teaching printmaking since 1969. Selma’s work will be in the exhibition I am organizing for the Cambridge Center titled “Push/Pull: Recent Work from CCAE’s Printmaking Faculty” which opens in January 2016.



Selma Bromberg in her studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Anulfo Baez: You attended Smith College in the 1960s and studied under Leonard Baskin and Elliot Offner, both artists with very long and well-known careers at Smith College. At what point did you realize that printmaking was something you wanted to do for the rest of your life?

Selma Bromberg: I was living in a student house and on Thursdays we would invite faculty for dinner as guests, and I was sitting in the living room before dinner talking to Elliot Offner’s wife and she said to me, “you know, I hear that you’re very good.”

We both laugh

AB: Was that the point you realize you wanted to do printmaking?

SB: So, that was the point I realized they respected me. You didn’t hear this in class. I knew I wanted to be a printmaker, when I started studying with Leonard Baskin. I admired the power and the technique of his etchings and woodcuts. He was an inspiring teacher.  We learned to really look at an object such as a conch shell and draw it several times until we completely understood the form. We learned how to design and cut a wood block with precision.

AB: You’ve been teaching at the Cambridge Center since 1969—an impressive tenure heading the Cambridge Center’s printmaking program for adults learners. The Blacksmith House Printmakers is a group of printers that you often talk about. Did you found the Blacksmith Printmakers or was the group already established when you started teaching at the Cambridge Center?

SB: I founded that. It probably started maybe ten years later because there was a group of students that kept returning and we wanted to have a show and that was when we called ourselves “The Blacksmith House Printmakers”

AB: I know that the group has had a long history with putting exhibitions at the Cambridge Center, including an exhibition where prints were exchanged with artists from Vancouver.

SB: I had a student from Vancouver who had a good friend who ran a gallery also in Vancouver. There’s a whole section of artists and artists’ studios and they had miniature shows where they send out a whole show in just a manila envelope and we did this print exchange. We got out our little manila packet, we sent it out to them. We sent out our miniature prints and they gave us a show and then they sent all their prints to Cambridge and we put them in little frames.

AB: Traveling is central to your practice as an artist. Much of your body of work is made around residencies you’ve been a part of or trips you’ve taken on your own. You’re currently working on a series of prints from your trip to Taiwan. Can you tell me more about this trip and your new body of work?

SB: Yes. The trip to Taiwan came about, it was actually my son’s wedding and this is very exciting because I’ve always loved looking at Asian art—Chinese art, Japanese art, and suddenly this was happening for me. And I was going to see a lot of things. And the family is a creative, artistic family. One of the first things we did, we went to a museum of woodcuts and saw early woodcuts from the 10th century up to very contemporary woodcuts.

AB: Was that your first trip to Asia?

SB: Yeah. The other part that was exciting was that with the family we traveled around the island. Traveling through the mountains and my daughter-in-law’s brothers were asking “why are you excited about the mountains? You’ve got mountains” and I said “yeah, but I don’t see mountains with tropical vegetation.” The most exciting part was the national park at Taroko. It was very different from the Grand Canyon. The light is different. The rock is different. The vegetation was different. Walking through there was very exciting.

AB: What are the prints you’re working on now from this trip to Taiwan?

SB: The prints I am working on now are from the visit to Taroko National Park. I took a lot of photographs and I would sit in the van we were in and I would draw from memory as we were driving through the mountains. I would always draw and when I would get back to my room, I would always draw from memory of walking through the gorge.

AB: Your trip was a year ago and you’re still making work from that trip?

SB: I’m still making work.

AB: How many prints have you made so far?

SB: I did a whole series of pronto plates based on Taroko. I did about ten of those. I don’t know which ones are finished and which ones I’ll use. I just started another series on the rocks of Taroko-another pronto plate series, very dramatic, spare black and white lines. I did an edition of six of those. And I have small monotypes I am working on that are flower prints.

AB: Prints of flowers from Taiwan?

SB: Right. At one point, we were near the ocean and there was a whole field of lotus flowers. Big green leaves and pink flowers and I took a lot of photographs of those. We were near the ocean and it was pretty dramatic. The rock was dark, it was a different beach than what I had ever seen. Before you got to the beaches there were these fields filled with lotus flowers.

AB: Do most of your prints get started by drawing from memory?

SB: Yes. I’ve always liked looking at mountains, landscapes and when I would ski when I my kids were little, we would go up to New Hampshire, past Franconia Notch and right there, there’s this incredible view of the mountains and the snow, which looks like a Japanese landscape and it would stay in my memory until I got to the hotel. I would take my sketchbook out and draw. I did an artist residency—I did four of them—at the Vermont Studio School and I was looking at waterfalls the entire time, making drawings and woodcuts of waterfalls. I did another artist residency in Virginia—the western part of Virginia—and the landscape there was this kudzu—this vine that chokes all of the landscape. All the trees and bushes are covered with this kudzu and it looks like a giant topiary. Again, I was out there drawing the kudzu.

Betty. Image courtesy of the artist.

Betty. Image courtesy of the artist.

AB: From a very early point in your career you started with drawing and making prints of zoo animals and then you went on to making work about nature and all these epic mountainous landscapes. You’ve developed a lot of work from being in nature and looking at nature. Did you always know that you wanted to make work about nature?

SB: Well, maybe the earliest…rocks. My art teacher would take me to Rockport and I would draw the rocks. I was around 12 or 13 and I remember just sitting out on Bearskin Neck doing a watercolor of the rocks and something just happened. It was very exciting, I just felt something. So it started then.

AB: Who have been some of your influences as a printmaker?

SB: Traditionally, I look at Rembrandt for etching and Kathe Kollwitz for woodcut and I look at Goya for etching. Probably the most intellectual part was when I was in college and I was studying with Leonard Baskin and he said, “there are three artists you have to look at: Durer, Rembrandt and Goya,” so that was my training. Later, when I graduated college and I went to work at what was then the Experimental Etching Studio and met other artists either from New England or from other places and learned other techniques with that body of artists. That was probably over 40 years ago and I’m still working with that group. I mean, it went on from being called the Experimental Etching Studio to EES Arts to Full Tilt Studio so there is a lot of influences and different techniques and I have very good friends from that group and we critique each other’s works.

AB: You’ve built a fully equipped studio in Weston, Mass. Has your practice changed over time with new developments in printmaking or has it always pretty much remained the same?

SB: It has changed. Maybe 30 or 40 years ago, we were all doing traditional etching and they were doing the same thing in the art schools. We no longer do that because we don’t use solvents anymore and some of the materials used in order to do traditional printmaking. We began doing collagraphs and all that is pretty much non-toxic. We’ve changed the kinds of inks we use, change the kind of cleanup. And now we’re doing pronto plates which are a simplified form of lithography.

AB: Do your students inform your practice as an artist?

SB: Oh, there’s a definite exchange. Students come into class having lived in other areas. I have a student now who studied in Canada and England, but she’s learning some new techniques here. I have another student in the same class who prints in the winter in Paris and we talk about the kinds of inks they’re using and the kinds of inks we’re using here, so there’s a constant exchange.

AB: What was the last printmaking or non-printmaking show you saw and what surprised you the most about it?

SB: I have to go back to talking about Taiwan and the experiences there and not so much the show, but being in  these ancient temples with these Buddhas and all kinds of woodcarvings, stone carvings and paintings. As far as visual experience that was one of the most intense visual experiences. I remember being in a little town and there was a temple dedicated to fishing, so the Buddha was dedicated to fishing. It was small and very manageable, you could climb up the three flights and see painted dragons and green jade Buddhas and all the walls were all carved wood. I think that for me was an intense visual experience, they weren’t prints, but these were all works of art.

AB: Do you as a printmaker tend to gravitate toward one technique over the others?

SB: I have about four or five different techniques and I just work on different things at different times. I really like solar etching. I just did a print today that’s a solar etching trying out a new kind of plate that we have and I really enjoyed that. I really like cutting woodblocks.

AB: Any other techniques you really enjoy working in?

SB: I really like monotype. I find pronto plates challenging and I was really pleased I’ve gotten very good results with it, but it is very challenging. It is challenging to teach as well.

AB: You are in the Harvard Art Museums collections, the Boston Public Library, the Worcester Art Museum, as well as in many other private and public collections. You are one of the most humble people I know and have worked with. Can you tell me how all these organizations started acquiring your work?

SB: It was pretty exciting when the Fogg acquired one of my prints and the way that happened, I think it was around 1998 there was a big print symposium in Boston and it was organized by all the universities and colleges in the area. Artists were invited from all over the world. My group was invited for a talk at the Fogg and at the end of the talk, the curator invited us all to bring our work in. I brought my work in and I thought it would go into the collection for students to rent, but she [curator] wrote “No, it’s going into the private collection.” There was another similar situation with the Boston Public Library. We were having that big show “Working Proof: The Experimental Etching Studio” and we were in there hanging it and so I went up to the Keeper of Prints. I was very shy and said, “Would you like to look at my work?” and he said, “of course, I would.”

AB: Was that Sinclair Hitchings?

SB: Yes. Sinclair Hitchings. And when I got in there, he brought out his folder on me. [We both laugh simultaneously]. Because, whenever you had a show, you sent cards to everyone. At that time, the internet wasn’t around and he had a folder on me. I mean, not just me, he had a folder on everybody. His whole approach was to encourage Boston artists and he collected my friends too. So when you say, I’m humble, I mean, I know he was collecting all of us, but we were a strong group from EES. He did a lot for Boston artists and Boston printmakers.

AB: Selma, anything you else you want me to include in this interview?

SB: Well, I think we’ve covered everything. Some things I brought in as a joke [Selma picks up the photo of her grandson she brought in to show me and which she had been looking at for some time while we were talking about her trip to Taiwan], but I did a whole series, that was the print that was in the Boston Public Library exhibition, that was the beginning of that kind of series.*

*The series Selma is referring to was a series which explored the nature of being a recent mother. An image of one of the prints in the series can be found in the Working Proof exhibition catalogue.

AB, November 6, 2015

Review: Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop by April Vollmer

CoverJapanese woodblock printmaking or mokuhanga—moku meaning “wood” and hanga “printmaking”—is the subject of a new book by New York artist April Vollmer. Published by Watson-Guptill, Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Art of Mokuhanga, re-introduces to an American (mostly) audience the beauty, history and significance of mokuhanga alongside step-by-step instructions for creating your own work using this ancient technique.

If you’re wondering how Japanese woodblock printmaking differs from the western woodcuts, Ms. Vollmer not only writes about three significant differences, but makes a case for a fourth one: washi, or Japanese handmade paper. First, mokuhanga is printed with water-based sumi ink and watercolor brushed onto the block with stiff brushes, rather than rolled onto the surface with brayers as in western woodcuts. Second, mokuhanga prints are printed with a handheld barren rather than a hard rubbing tool or a mechanical press. Third, it uses the accurate kento registration system cut directly into the block—a Japanese invention that makes it easy to align the paper for printing multiple colors.

Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop is not the first book in the English language to have been published on the subject—there have been others, including Rebecca Salter’s Japanese Woodblock Printing, a book Ms. Vollmer praises for feeding her passion for the subject. That said, Ms. Vollmer’s book is one of the most comprehensive, lavishly illustrated and impeccably researched books I’ve encountered in my quest for absorbing anything and everything related to Japanese culture.

Part reference guide and part instructional book, Ms. Vollmer briefly traces the history of the art form and places it in a much broader context, showcasing many examples of prints by contemporary artists living in North America. Working in mokuhanga since the 1990s, Ms. Vollmer studied under master printers Kathy Caraccio, Bill Paden and Tetsuya Noda and when presented with the opportunity to write a book that would serve as an introduction to the basics of mokuhanga, she immediately accepted it with great enthusiasm. Three years in the making, Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop is a terrific book worth savoring again and again.

At 256 pages, Japanese Woodblock Print Workshop is more than just a book, it is an indispensable guide to everything related to the Japanese style of printmaking. It is an introduction to the history, significance and practice of mokuhanga in and outside Japan and features illuminating discussions such as that on washi- Japanese handmade paper and its role in Japanese culture. Other highlights include a listing of contemporary artists using mokuhanga in their practice, among which are Annie Bissett, David Curcio and Kevin Frances, all artists making work in Massachusetts.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

On Printmaking, Japanese Culture and Encaustic Collagraphs: An Interview with Susan Paladino

indigofinal on paper In my time working as Program Director managing and programming visual arts courses at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know many artists and craftspeople. One of the programs I oversee is printmaking, which under the direction of Selma Bromberg, teaches students several printmaking techniques including relief, intaglio and silkscreen printing. I recently sat down with Susan Paladino—one of the printmaking instructors at the Cambridge Center to talk about printmaking, our shared interest in Japanese culture and her upcoming encaustic collagraph class in September 2015.  Susan began teaching experimental monoprints and monotypes at the Cambridge Center in 2012 and has exhibited her work nationally, including at the Fitchburg Art Museum, Provincetown Art Association, the Drawing Room in Portland, Maine, Cambridge Art Association and many other venues.

Anulfo Baez: Susan, I’m really glad I’ve had the opportunity to work with you over this past year at the Cambridge Center, especially in planning the summer term since this is when we talked about your work as printmaker.What is it about printmaking that attracts you to it?

Susan Paladino: I became curious about printmaking when I first saw that so many painters I admired also did prints that I liked.  When I began printmaking, I tried all kinds of techniques, etching, lithograph, and woodcut.  I quickly learned that making monoprints was what I enjoyed most and to this day I continue to refine my skills and conceptual process. I enjoy the element of surprise and flexibility that I find in monoprinting. I can be more spontaneous and more expressive and yet make variable prints for editions. It’s not important for me to make 30 identical prints.

Monotypes are for making one print whereas with monoprints you’re working with a matrix, though you can change and transform both with all kinds of printmaking paper, inking and mixed media. There’s so much room for experimenting.  Recently I’ve been using more Asian papers.

AB: You studied at the Museum School as well at the Artists Student League of New York and you’ve taught printmaking at several places, including here at the Cambridge Center.

SP: At the Museum School, where I studied printmaking, there was a terrific group of us that would, for years, get together at least once a week in an Open Studio.  We’d share what we were doing and very open about how we achieved certain results.  It was so much fun to be in a studio with other dedicated printmakers.   I hope the Open Studio at Cambridge Center inspires this kind of camaraderie and inspiration.

AB: From my understanding of printmaking and having friends who are printmakers, it seems that there’s a social aspect to making prints that makes the medium even more attractive to work in. Is this true for you as well?

SP: I do enjoy being around other creative people in a print shop.  I have my own studio but there are times when it can be fun and inspiring to catch up on what other people are doing.  It is good learn some new techniques and find out who is showing where but you can make some very good friends because of the mutual interest in art.
12 x 12 collagraph on wood panel 3

AB: I’ve noticed you have an interest in Japanese Folk Art, in particular Boro textiles. I don’t know if I’ve told you this, but I have always been interested in Japanese art and culture and even started studying the language here at CCAE. I think one of the things that attracted me to your work as a printmaker is your interest in Japanese art. Can you tell me more about this?

SP: I didn’t know that you were so interested in Japanese culture.  I, too, took a Japanese calligraphy course at CCAE and was very pleased to dip my foot (that is, my brush) into those waters.  I like combining Eastern aesthetics with Western ones, exploring the outcomes and working through them.

AB:When I was in college I took a course in the history of Japanese art and architecture which really cemented my love for the culture. Looking at your past work, I can see an affinity toward Eastern art, in particular the Japanese imagery I am familiar with.  At some point in your career you’ve also explored Netsuke—the miniature sculptures popular in 17th-century Japan. Have you always been interested in Japanese culture and history?

SP: When I was in my twenties, I’d go see as many black and white Japanese films such as Kurosawa and Ozu.  I loved the graphic contrast of the cinematography.  I’ve had a long-time affinity toward Eastern art, though I can’t necessarily explain all the reasons why. Over the last couple of years I created a body of work that used Netsukes as a starting point.  These characters came alive for me and I enlarged them and then put them into different environments, new ones. I found that they expressed what I was feeling at the time and their strong personalities spoke powerfully to me. Besides Japanese culture in and of itself, there is also an appreciation of  “cuteness” and pop among the artists, and I see it in the art all the time.  Takashi Murakami is just one of the more well-known ones here.umbrellaiweb-filtered

AB: Some of the work you’re making now is influenced by Boro textiles—a textile usually sewn by women from 19th and early 20th century rags and patches of indigo dyed cotton, popular in Edo Japan and even Showa-era Japan. What got you interested in these textiles?

SP: Many years ago I had a small pillow business and used antique textiles to make them.  I’ve quite a collection from the early 20th century.

Recently I became curious to learn about indigo dye and came across some collections of Boro textiles and I immediately fell in love.   It has not only renewed my interest in textiles, but also sparked new concepts for the art of printmaking and encaustic painting.

AB:Just a few seconds ago you mentioned indigo. I’ve always been fascinated by textiles and dyes, in particular the history of indigo. Have you experimented with using indigo in printmaking or is that something that is taboo?

SP: I have recently finished some work using indigo color with Akua inks.  You said you may post some of them here.  Some are on paper and some are on panels with encaustic medium.  I am happy with the results but plan on learning to use dye too which I think will work very well with certain papers.

AB:I’ve never taken a printmaking class, but have dabbed a little here and there and I’ve always been interested in the history of printmaking—particularly Japanese woodblock prints.

SP: It sounds like you should take my class. Even if you take one workshop, it will open your eyes to printmaking in general.   Since you write about various kinds of art, you’ll have a better understanding of what is involved in the creation of prints. I found, too, that even when I learn something that I know I’m not going to use, my eyes open to an appreciation of other work at a deeper level of understanding.  A couple of years ago, I started exploring the process of encaustic paint using a medium of wax and resin with pigment and then fuse it.  I have set up my studio for this process.

AB: I think I will take the encaustic collagraphs class you’ll be teaching this Fall. It’s a new class at the Cambridge Center and you’re using beeswax on plexi-plates to create monoprints, which to my understanding is a rather newer method of printmaking, correct?

SP: This is a printmaking technique that uses beeswax with only white pigment to create textures on a plexi-plate to make prints with paper. The wonderful thing about using beeswax, as opposed to acrylic gel medium, is that you can carve and scrape into it, which allows me the opportunity to vary textures to suit the piece.

In addition, I have so many ideas that I like to share with students for combining and using different materials and tools.

AB: That sounds really exciting Susan! Encaustic art-making has become very popular nowadays and I hope this class really takes off here at the Center.

SP: We are talking a lot about process here, but I do want to help give students the means and techniques so that they can become free to find their own ideas and concepts and work them through. All of us can take comfort in this quote from Picasso ”I am always doing things I can’t do, that’s how I get to do them.”

AB: How is your interest in beeswax and printmaking going?

SP: I became a new member of New England Wax (NEW) this past March. I’ll be attending their September meeting in Andover, and I’m excited to meet other artist members.  NEW is a community of artists that I want to work with and there will be opportunities to exhibit my new work in the medium of encaustic.

AB, August 2015

For more information on Susan Paladino, you can visit her website and see more of her work here