The Radius Gallery’s “Impressions” features work from 13 Montana printmakers, including James G. Todd, Claire Emery, Doug Turman and Bev Beck Glueckert. The exhibit showcases “the vitality of contemporary printmaking,” according to the gallery, by showing recent work from three generations of Montana artists.
The Missoulian spoke with three of the artists on their work, process and varying approaches to printmaking.
“I love figurative work,” Herries said. “And I can’t paint, really. How do you do more painterly work in a printmaking process? That’s what I’m trying to figure out.”
Herries approaches his figures by screenprinting a huge variety of pieces, which he tears and cuts into pieces that form into a collage, outlining cowboys, Native Americans and in his recent pieces, a couple of female figures in everyday poses. In “Lengthwise Grain,” a woman sits at a table, dipping a teabag into a cup, her hair and the teabag screen printed black over top a collage of maps, old ads, book pages and sheet music.
“Normally, you print and you’re kind of stuck with what you’ve got,” Herries said. “The collage work is more like painting. You can cover stuff up.”
Four other works Herries contributed have a more traditional screen print style. The color-block pieces have images of fish and birds, cruising through deep backgrounds of orange, pink and blue.
This series came from some experimentation, Herries said, “just messing around and seeing what works.”
“I’m always trying to find something simple,” he continued. “I really like bright, bold colors.”
Although small, the pieces are striking. “Ridges of the Wind” has three black-and-white birds ascending the frame, trailing a deep plum off the tips of their wings, with peach-orange trailing off them in a deep blue sky.
“Those ones are not my usual style,” Herries said. But “I’ll definitely go back to it.”
Janzen as well is showcasing two distinct styles of printmaking: woodcuts and photopolymer intaglio, although they both focus on the same subject.
“The landscape holds history,” Janzen said. “And I’m interested in rivers, too, because they connect different geographic regions.”
People and animals come and go, she said, but the rivers flow on, bearing witness to the eons of change that happen around them.
Janzen’s woodcuts are the focal point given their size alone. “Lower Falls, Yellowstone River” is 24 by 40 inches, all stark chunks of black and white, right angles capturing the water’s flow.
“The choppiness helps create the type of energy that I see in the landscape that you don’t see with your eyeballs,” Janzen said. “I’m not so much interested in a literal representation.”
The style gives the images a power and personality, she said, that, in her mind, captures the rivers better than other styles.
Those woodblocks, though, can take up to a week to finish, Janzen said, so she recently searched for a style of printmaking she could finish a little more quickly.
That led her to photopolymer intaglio, which uses photographs of rivers, on top of which Janzen prints opaque pinks and teals. A stencil cuts circles and trapezoids in the colors, focusing the print on a certain part of the photo in a vignette effect.
“It’s a way to play around with the same matter in a different way,” Janzen said.
Bailey’s work consists of three long, thin prints, stacked over each other in black, grey and blue landscapes. Each print is made up of several smaller panels, pasted together in a long thread.
“The works themselves are partly influenced by a map with a grid,” Bailey said. “Individual panes are influenced by certain walks or journeys or places.”
The longer, accordion format is designed to recall an unfolded map, Bailey said, with its large squares of paper, along with smaller grids printed onto it.
After a long while working in full, bright colors, Bailey pulled back to use black, white and grey and, for this series, a watery blue.
That reflects the environmentalism and politics at play in the three prints.
“‘Rising Waters,’ is dealing specifically with climate change,” Bailey explained. “So, the opposing sides are black and white. And the puddle (a swirled panel) is meant to be this universal symbol that has a lot of different interpretations."
And the blue middle panel is, of course, water.
Bailey generally starts by printing individual panels, based on a hike he took, or ferns he finds pleasing to the eye, then prints them using various processes like monotype, relief and screen printing.
Those squares get matched up with others, not always with an idea of what goes together beforehand, Bailey said.
“Sometimes it’s a bit of a puzzle,” he said.