Produced in Partnership
PNCA Printmaking students are collaborating with some of the field's best artists on small runs of exceptionally crafted prints.
If you wandered into the far right corner of Swigert Commons at the end of the Fall 2011 semester, chances are that your eye would have been caught by one of the prints currently on display in the Corner Gallery. The show, entitled “Published by PNCA,” was a collection of prints by established artists such as Sandow Birk, Christine Bourdette, Sue Coe, Alden Mason, Nikki McClure, Regina Silveira, and, most recently, Storm Tharp, a local artistic rock star who exhibited in the 2010 Whitney Biennial. The prints are striking, and represent a wide range of printmaking techniques and processes: monotype, direct gravure, drypoint, screenprint, and soft ground, among others.
But what was hidden made this exhibition truly remarkable: Each one of these prints was produced in direct collaboration with faculty members and students from the PNCA community.
Most recently, the printmaking department collaborated with Portland artist Storm Tharp to produce the 8-print Health series. It all started with a 2009 gravure workshop led by Paul Mullowney and Sandow Birk that resulted in the workshop students printing an edition of direct gravure prints by Birk.
Mullowney, who returned in 2010 as the year’s printmaking artist-in-residence, folded the production of Storm Tharp’s prints into the curriculum of his fall semester photogravure class. While at PNCA, Mullowney handed Tharp a soft ground copper plate. Tharp was so engaged with the medium that he produced not one, but nine prints, 8 dry points for the Health series and a 9th soft ground etching, Bokashi.
“After producing a set of prints at that level of production,” said Matthew Letzelter, Chair of the Printmaking Department, “you see those results in classes. These collaborations have obvious ripple effects.” He has already seen students using techniques learned from Mullowney in their own studio work, especially the use of chine collé and gravure.
This past December, the Portland Art Museum purchased a full set of prints from Tharp’s Health series. This is a significant purchase and has led Letzelter to dream big about the future of the department. He wants to make print publishing part of the regular curriculum, sourced from Portland’s rich local art scene. Partnerships like these artist collaborations are giving the department the flexibility it needs to plan for the future.
The first collaboration between PNCA’s printmaking department and an outside artist was in the 1980’s, when Gordon Gilkey enlisted Tom Prochaska and Christy Wyckoff to print a lithograph for artist James McGarrell.
That was over thirty years ago. Since then, the printmaking department has collaborated with a number of individual artists to produce limited edition prints. Of the final edition, the department keeps a small handful, some go directly to a gallery and some go the artist. The department splits the profits with the artist and the gallery and puts it share towards supplies, labor, scholarships and studio upkeep.
One of the most valuable results, however, is intangible: the students involved in these collaborations gain a rare insight into professional printmaking practices and learn sophisticated techniques from the hands of masters.
“These collaborations,” said Letzelter, “take students to the next level of making.”
Letzelter has noticed that the students who participate are often those who go on to get internships, to produce higher quality work, to earn scholarships and to come back to encourage other students. Some of the students who worked on the Tharp prints are now working at the legendary Crown Point Press in San Francisco and at Mullowney’s new studio, Studio 931.