Community monoprint show will press on through the month of February

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For more than 10 years, a group of Island artists has been practicing the art of monoprinting at Featherstone Center for the Arts. Now, for the first time, a number of these artists will be included in a group Monoprint/Monotype exhibition at the West Tisbury library. The show will hang through the month of February with an opening reception this Saturday, Feb. 4.

The featured artists are Wendy Weldon, Rob Hauck, Leslie Baker, Fae Kontje, Linda Ziegler, Marie Louise Rough, Michaele Christian, Marston Clough, Marjorie Mason, and the late Nick Thayer, who for many years was the resident monoprint expert at Featherstone.

“He really was our anchor,” Leslie Baker, one of the studio regulars, told The Times. “He taught there, and he was the monitor for the open studio. He was incredibly knowledgable. He was our guru in a way. He set the tone of the studio.”

“His knowledge of techniques helped us so much to improve the quality of our prints,” added Wendy Weldon. “The monotype show at the library was open to anybody, but it ended up being about the Featherstone printing group. Nick’s work completes the group.” Mr. Thayer’s widow Nina loaned some of her late husband’s prints to the show.

Most of the pieces that will be on display are monotypes, as opposed to monoprints. Ms. Weldon described the difference: “A monoprint is made with a plate that has an etched image on it that can be printed over and over again. A monotype is a one-shot deal. You ink a plate, then wet your paper. You put it on top of the plate and run it thru the press. What you get is basically a one-of-a-kind painting that’s printed on paper.”

Both Ms. Weldon and Ms. Baker work in other media — mainly painting, though they both create and show their monotype and monoprint work at Island galleries. They explained what it is that attracts them to printing work: “For me it’s the immediacy of the medium,” Ms. Baker said. “It’s fast, unless you’re working in layers. There’s something about the way the ink absorbs into the paper. The pressure of the press almost fuses the ink into the paper. The image looks different than painting on canvas or paper because of the pressure of the press.”

Said Ms. Weldon: “What really attracts me is the ability to sketch something out, put some colors down on a plate. It’s so relaxed because I don’t have to control the outcome. I just let it evolve. There’s the element of surprise. When I let go of control and don’t manipulate anything, that is when the magic happens.”

Often, Ms. Weldon uses the monoprint technique to inspire future paintings. “It can be a jumping-off place for some canvases,” she said. “I really like that part of it. It’s a magical sketchbook.”

The images in the West Tisbury library show represent a range of monoprints, from landscapes to still lifes to abstracts. Rob Hauck’s black, white, and gray “Redacted” is an example of the abstract. Marston Clough has contributed an evocative landscape in a startling crimson red. Ms. Weldon’s color block interpretation of Lucy Vincent Beach clearly shows the use of geometrics and bold color found in much of her painting work. Michaele Christian’s “Purple Sand” uses interesting colors to define an impressionistic seascape. Linda Ziegler’s pretty “Nest 1,” which includes a grouping of eggs and a few simple lines defining the straw nest, falls somewhere between abstract and figurative.

Of all of the artists represented in the show, Marjorie Mason’s work comes the closest to realism. Many of her pieces include remarkable detail and nuance, and have the look of a painting. On her website, Ms. Mason described her attraction to the medium: “Many years ago, I saw a monotype demonstration. My teacher did a painting with oils and a brush onto a plexiglass plate. She then placed a piece of paper right on top of it and squeezed it through the rollers of a printing press. When the plate and paper came out the other side, she pulled the paper away from the plate and so revealed the printed (transferred) image, the only image that could ever be fully true to the original painted plate. It was, to my thinking, instant art! My heart did a somersault, and I have loved this process ever since.”

Ms. Mason recently donated a French Tool press to Featherstone, which was installed in the arts campus’ brand-new print studio. The press that the printing group has been using for years, made of recycled machine parts by Barney Zeitz, is still in use in the studio. The new press will add another element to the printing process.

The printmaking studio is open to the public. The presses are available for people with some experience. Featherstone offers classes in monoprinting on a regular basis.

Ms. Weldon encourages those interested in learning about printmaking to come to the opening, where all of the artists will be in attendance.
Community monoprint art show: Opening Saturday, Feb. 4, from 4 to 5 pm. The show will hang through the month of February. For more information, visit westtisburylibrary.org and featherstoneart.org.