August 22, 2008

Holy Friday, Batman!

It has been too long since I immersed myself in the visual arts--usually a chance comes when I sneak off to a colony, but Sewanee was writers and nothing but. So this weekend I am hoping to go to the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a local institution where the Navy did, in fact manufacture torpedoes from 1918 to 1945. If the day is sunny I plan to take the Georgetown water taxi over and back, so I don't feel quite so guilty about being cooped up inside.

If you're interested in art that is a little less local, I'd like to introduce you to the work of Jessica Dunne. Jessica is familiar to many who have done a stint at Virginia Center for Creative Arts, where she regularly takes refuge from her home in San Francisco (though it's hard for me to imagine ever wanting to escape California). I was thrilled to see that Jessica finally got her own website up and running, where you can survey her big, light-obsessed canvases:

"The Beach" / 2008


"Century 21" / 2006


"The Office, Virginia" / 2005

I am particularly fond of "The Office," which I recall her working on down on Mt. San Angelo; Alfred Corn pointed out one corner gutter-pipe that needed additional work! (It looks perfect now.) In addition to painting Jessica is also a printmaker, creating monotypes and spit-bite aquatints. I found this fascinating excerpt from a 2005 artist's statement on her process:

For the monotypes, I develop an image by dabbing etching ink onto a mylar plate with my fingertips, subtracting the lights with cotton swabs. I then print from the mylar onto a sheet of paper, and repeat the process over 50 times to create an image. The monotypes are really printed paintings: I make a single copy. The technique enables me to achieve a depth and subtlety of color that I have not found possible in any other medium.

The black and white "spit-bite" aquatints are yet another process. "Spit-bite" means biting the image with a combination of acid and saliva directly into a rosin-coated copper plate. The copper becomes the matrix for several identical prints--an edition. I find the fluid and painterly results worth the unsavory process.

Monotype and spit-bite aquatint combine the freedom of painting with the mysterious quality of printmaking, where ink is pressed into the paper as opposed to resting on the surface. In both techniques the final image is reversed from how I painted it, and contains unexpected marks and nuances. That unpredictability is what draws me to printmaking and, inevitably, sends me fleeing back to the relative comfort of painting.

A few years ago the Gettysburg Review devoted their covers and a portfolio to her work. (An aside--I feel like this GR website is looking dated. Is it an archive? Is there a newer one?) At the next AWP, you might look through the Review's 10-year anniversary collection of "back issue" artists, which I believe was produced as a limited-edition fundraiser and uses good, glossy paper comparable to any art catalogue. Her work is in there, along with some very talented others.


Leslie said...

I met Jessica at VCCA also and will second Sandra's opinion of her work: it's stunning! Thanks for the news of her new web site.

Maggie May said...

The Office is my favorite out of those three. It has a haunting, intensely human feeling to it, all the more powerful for the lack of humans.