It’s time to bring out the heavy equipment
By Jane A. Black
While you are looking about during October’s First Friday art hop, be sure to head over to the corner of Fifth Street and Patterson Boulevard from 5 to 9 p.m. to see printmaking in action. From the Oregon District, walk west under the railway overpass and visit Steamroller Prints: Flat-Out Fun, a community art-making event that will be up and rolling for a second pass October 7. Plan to spend at least half an hour — but keep in mind that it might turn into twice that — or more.
What will you see? Giant 4×4-foot prints being made by laying down sheets of carved linoleum and running over them with a steamroller. Yes, a steamroller. You’ll also see 40 artists out there inking up their smaller “Parking Prints;” people making prints by pitching back and forth on a specially outfitted rocking horse; and screen prints made start-to-finish from a portable cart. You can visit the adjacent ThinkTV studios from 5 to 9 p.m. for an Open Portfolio, where unframed prints will be available at very reasonable prices. And you can make your own “mini-steamroller” prints, too, in a family friendly environment, all free of charge. Did I mention there’s a steamroller?
The location, for those who have been around downtown for more than a couple of years, is the old Greyhound bus station, now back in use as a parking lot for Dayton’s best movie theater. Yeah, that’s a big shout-out to the Neon Movies for giving up their concrete for the night, so we can roll at street level, and to the City of Dayton for their help in setting this all up. While I’m saying thank you, Houser Asphalt and Concrete also gets a big hurrah for setting us up with the heavy equipment and a great operator.
Full disclosure: It’s “us” because this is a Dayton Visual Arts Center (DVAC) event — put on by the artists, art supporters, staff, volunteers and funders of DVAC, where I will wrap up eight years as executive director at the end of November. This will be one of my last projects with DVAC, and in true form we are having a blast putting it together, thanks to Patrick, Janelle, Beth, Diane (the other members of Team DVAC) and Nick Voegele, who’ve stepped up to coordinate this time around.
Not sure what printmaking is? Picture yourself in your junior high art class. At some point, you likely received a smooth rectangle of stiff, but flexible, plastic-y stuff with a canvas back. Your teacher gave each of you a funny-looking tool with a metal end that was folded into a V shape. Demonstrating how to carve into the surface, the teacher admonished the class that under no circumstances should you hold the linoleum so that the blade was pointing toward your other hand. And yet, within moments of turning you loose to carve, someone was bleeding.
That was the moment at which most of us first encountered relief printing. You make a design by creating two levels on a flat surface, called the matrix; apply ink to the parts you didn’t carve away, put the inked side against paper, apply pressure, and voila! You have a print. Ink again, and you have another. Do a good job making three or more prints that are consistent and you have an edition.
Printmaking is an ancient intersection between art and science that appeals to the right- and left-brained alike. It’s technical enough to be serious work, but sensual enough that it’s worth putting up with the mechanics and mess if your motivation runs more to luscious blacks and uniquely textured lines. There are lots of different kinds of hand-pulled fine art prints – etchings, aquatints, chine collé, silkscreens, lithographs — and you can learn more about them with the other activities that are paired with steamroller printing this year.
Thanks to the Ohio Arts Council, DVAC is hosting a two-day gathering for all of the Ohio Print Co-ops: The Dayton Printmakers Cooperative, Phoenix Rising (Columbus), Studio M Printmakers (Toledo), Tiger Lily Press (Cincinnati) and Zygote Press (Cleveland). On Friday, you can do all those things I already wrote about. And on Saturday, Oct. 8, if you haven’t had enough, you can join us for lectures and demonstrations by Ray Must, Nick Satinover and David Johnson — all focused on alternative methods of creating prints, like running them over with a steamroller. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Just check www.daytonvisualarts.org for more details. Remember, it’s all free, it’s all fun, and it’s all for you.
Hope you’ll join us.
Jane A. Black is a fiber artist and the executive director of the Dayton Visual Arts Center. Visit the gallery at 118 N. Jefferson St. or visit their website at www.daytonvisualarts.org. Follow her on Twitter @lookingabout. She can be reached at JaneBlack@DaytonCityPaper.com.