For at least two decades, seven working printmakers connected through their membership in Washington Printmakers Gallery. After, for one reason or another, each opted out of the organization, but still wanted to show their work together, they formed an alliance they call Making Our Mark.
That was about a year ago, said Max-Karl Winkler, the Kensington-based printmaker and illustrator credited with the idea for the group whose first exhibit is on view through April 7 in the BlackRock Center for the Arts’ Kay Gallery in Germantown. Making Our Mark members brainstormed and chose their name via email, Winkler said.
BlackRock’s Gallery Director Anne Burton first encountered four of the printmakers at the arts center’s February 2017 group printmaking exhibit “INK IT: Contemporary Print Practices.” Its juror Helen Frederick, “a distinguished artist, educator, curator and founder of Pyramid Atlantic,” Burton said, “selected works by 53 printmakers for that show… Max-Karl Winkler was one of them, and I think that was a catalyst for him to organize the group and submit a proposal.”
Just two weeks before BlackRock’s 2017 deadline, the seven artists scrambled to put together their proposal, which, in turn, said Burton, “was selected from among many submitted by artists and curators for consideration. We try to feature a variety of different media in our exhibits, and quite honestly, during the past five years, we have received very few proposals from printmakers.”
Burton thought the exhibit would be valuable “because the seven artists have a wide range of styles and their subjects include representational as well as abstract works. I also recognized that because members of this group are experts in their respective printmaking techniques, and have teaching experience, that we would be able to plan activities and workshops to bring the artists and the community together.”
“All the Making Our Mark artists shared their process and techniques with the community at BlackRock’s ‘Community Art Day: Printmaking’ event on March 17,” Burton said. “Visitors were fascinated to see the tools they use, the original plates and woodblocks, and the steps involved in making prints. There was a rush of excitement at three stations where participants created prints guided by the artists. It was a great experience for our community, to engage with exhibiting artists through hands-on art making activities, demonstrations and interactive tours of the exhibit.”
Burton said she served as Winkler’s “wing woman and chauffeur” as they visited the seven artists’ studios to choose from among the some 20 works each artist showed them as possibilities for the exhibit. Sometimes, to the printmaker’s delight, added Winkler, the pair would select a work he remembered from the past or spy another possibility in the studio.
The process of arranging and hanging the 124 works, Burton said, took about two days. She was assisted by Winkler, along with fellow Making Our Mark artists—Max-Karl’s wife Ellen Verdon Winkler and Pauline Jakobsberg, as well as Art League of Germantown (ALOG) volunteers. Unless intended as companion works, a single artist’s pieces rarely hang side by side—like Jenny Freestone’s tryptich “Aqua 1, 2 and 3, Second State.” Instead, works by different artists that inform or complement each other are hung in proximity to each other. A case in point, Ellen Verdon Winkler observed, are her own graphite drawing, “Oak,” and Jenny Freestone’s drypoint, “Ship of Fools,” where both subjects are decaying natural forms treated almost hyper-realistically, with the contrasting media offering similar visual solutions.
The show features multiple works by each artist, ranging from 12 to 27 apiece, filling nearly every spot on the walls of the 1,500-square-foot, naturally lit, high ceilinged space. Examples of a wide range of printmaking processes and techniques — drypoint, etching, aquatint, woodcut, direct gravure, photogravure, silkscreen, monotype, collagraph and Chine-collé — are included. In addition to their prints, the multitalented artists are showing their drawings, paintings, assemblages and small sculptures.
For viewers, Burton said, the exhibit is a veritable treasure hunt; they can take their time to appreciate the variety as well as the complexity involved. “With my personal interest in printmaking, and having studied printmaking in college, I sometimes forget that not everyone realizes the laborious processes involved in creating an editioned eight-color reduction woodcut, etching, aquatint or photogravure,” she said.
The community’s response to the exhibit has been noteworthy. “It has been fascinating to witness visitors spending an extended period of time in the gallery exploring the exhibition. Granted, there is a lot to see, with 124 works on display,” Burton said. “But I notice people of all ages slowing down, taking time to compare and notice the qualities of marks that result from the various media and techniques.”
The work of Making Our Mark’s seven artists—Jenny Freestone, Pauline Jakobsberg, Lee Newman, Margaret Adams Parker, Terry Svat, Ellen Vernon Winkler and Max-Karl Winkler– is on view through April 7 in the Kay Gallery of BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Drive, Germantown. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, as well as select evening and Sunday hours when performances are scheduled. Call 301-528-2260 or visit www.blackrockcenter.org.