Open Road

There are times when one must accept that one is not going to go on a road trip — of the physical type, anyway — for a while.  That is when a trip by poetry can provide what is needed.  I went back to Leaves of Grass by Walt Witman and was once again adrenalized by the exuberance and abundance of his spirit.  I had this little set of linoleum print scraps sitting on the back burner of the studio, and I discovered that his “Song of the Open Road” felt perfect for these images.

Click on any image to view an enlargement.

Oola’s long lost Grandmother

Last week I received a letter of request to buy some of my old art.  (Praised be to Holy Hannabek!)  Well, I went rummaging through the stacks and found, to my surprise and Oola’s,  a linoleum print from years ago featuring Oola’s long lost Grandmother! Having only recently found her long lost cousin, Trailina the trailer trash zombie, Oola was once again filled with joyous vapours.

Shipwreck, detail
Oola’s Long Lost Grandmother

We investigated and learned that Oola’s grandmother, stage name Oola, was a famous artist’s model in the late 20th century.  Here she is starring in a linoleum print named “Shipwreck”.

shipwreck
Shipwreck

This is a linocut print.  For those of you not familiar with the linocut process,  you take a sheet of linoleum and a sharp cutting tool, and you cut away everything you want to be white.  Then you roll ink wherever you want black.  But verrry, verrry  carefully, because some of those cutaways are so tiny that it is very easy for the ink to “fill in”.  I used some high quality, very absorptive Japanese paper, applied pressure, and Voila! a print!

It turns out that Oola, the grandmother, had a long modeling career.  Here are some of the prints she starred in when she was younger.

She Leans into the Storm
She Leans into the Storm

I made this print when I was a California Arts Council Artist in Residence in the State Prison in Jamestown.  (See my entry “Trip to Sonora”.)

Then along came technicolor!

Cerberus
Cerberus

This is what we call a reductive linoleum print.  I guess that’s because when you’re finished, the linoleum is reduced to mostly rubble.  What you do is first cut away anything you want to be white, then print the first color on as many sheets of that fine paper as you want the edition to be..  Then you cut away anything you want to be that first color and white.  And being verrry, verrry careful with your inking and registration, you print the second color on all those sheets of paper.  Any mistakes reduce the size of the edition…

While the ink is drying, you cut away everything you want to be white, the first color, and the second color.  Repeat the printing process as above — including the last caveat.

And so on for — I think this print has about a dozen layers of color.  And it is a very small edition.  By the way, for those of you who are wondering, Cerberus was the three headed dog who guarded the gates of hell.  It was also the name I secretly thought for one of the guards at the prison where I worked in the art program with Stacey Hay. (“Trip to Sonora”)

The Message
The Message

Here’s another linocut print, same process. The many layers of color are combining to make secondary colors, and also trying to make mud.

Oola’s grandmother had aspirations as a dancer, but she also had some physical impediments!  After she was nine years old, Mr. Capezio could no longer help her.

The Ecstacy of St. Theresa
The Ecstasy of St. Theresa

Here, Oola the grandmother, is starring in an art-house production of “The Ecstasy of St. Theresa”, a piece very loosely  modeled on Bernini’s famous sculpture.  But I grew weary of the reductive process, so the color in this piece is painted on a sheet of plastic. It is “mono” printed, and then the black and white linoleum image is printed on top of that.  Different problems, same small edition.

While thinking about these old prints, I looked back in gratitude to my printmaking teachers, some of whom would not approve of this work, but who gave me the love of the printmaking process: Misch Kohn, Kenji Nanao, Michael Miller, and Bob Sennhauser.

Farewell for now, fellow earthlings and (if you have read this far) lovers of Oola and art.