Thursday, May 31, 2007

Art in Embassies, Tamarind Lithograph, Smithsonian NMAI

I just returned from the Tamarind Art Institute in Albuquerque making a lithograph edition for the Arts in Embassies project. The participating artists were Jaune Quick- to- See Smith, Norman Aikers, Mario Martinez, Marie Watt and myself.

Here is the blurb for the project: Established by the US Department of State, the Art in Embassies Program (AIEP) is "a global museum" exhibiting works by U.S. citizens in "approximately 180 American diplomatic residences worldwide." Recently, the AIEP began a collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) to bring limited edition works by five important contemporary Native American artists to embassies around the world.

The Tamarind is the most amazing place to make art. You collaborate with classically trained lithographers. Bill La Gattuta, Master Printer and Brooke Steiger, Senior Printer were the printers I worked with for my edition (with Aaron Shipps, Senior Printer, assisting). Marjorie Devon is the Director, who sets the creative and organizational tone for everything.

Foa a photographer/digital guy like me, among many other things, the Tamarind experience had to do with playing with inks and figuring out colors. I really loved this part, because an entire spectrum of possiblilities opened up, along with how the inks interact with each other, their subtle degrees of opacity and transparency, etc. One of our unexpected challenges was how to get a good tonal range from a photograph that was imbedded in the print, because we were tantalizingly close to getting the look we were searching for with this lithograph. This was where Bill performed some real magic and showed how they do some creative problem solving. At the end of a particularly long day, we all agreed that it would be good to let the prints sit overnight and try something that Bill was scheming for the next morning when we would all be fresh again.

Bill was able to advise Brooke as to how to shoot two plates so that there was subtle detail in both the highlight and shadow areas. Brooke got it right on target the first try and it literally took my breath away when I first saw the results. The printing sessions entailed bringing a lot of divergant elements together and making them work from a visual standpoint. The proofs looked very good, and had my vivsual aesthetic, and now I can't wait to see the prints when they're finished. It was an exhausting session, but in a very good way, like you just expended a lot of creative energy into something challenging. Brooke worked exceptionally hard and I could see why the interaction really is a collaborative effort from a creative standpoint because one must draw on the high level of experience that the printer has to offer with a whole range of ideas.

I really love organizations that enable artists to make more art, like the Tamarind. They are really great people to work with, personable, talented, hard working, nice, creative, dedicated to the cause of great art, innovative and hard working again. Their dedication sometimes seems like play, which is a cool thing to have happen. What a great formula for setting up an environment with which to make new art. If my own art becomes too serious, sometimes it falls flat on its face, so I appreciated the sense of playfulness, which may just be another way of saying experimentation may be a good thing. For me, this was critical because my visual aesthetic entails having a lot of layered images with things like juxtapositions, colors, photography, text, and a bit of irony thrown in for good measure.


J Sandifer said...

Very cool stuff!
Thanks for sharing!

Larry McNeil in Larryland said...

Thanks for looking. I'll get the new stuff on my website soon. It was a new challenge, which is always fun.