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As the world tentatively prepares to reopen following pandemic protocols, amid dueling vaccines and new virulent strains, MakeReady takes on another, undeniably hopeful association. When I view the work and read the statements by this year’s awardees, a cautious hope also pervades. Make Way is an exhibition of work by these artists that identifies them as harbingers and heralds of progress. Karin Broker, Lu Colby, Juana Estrada Hernandez, and Sean Caulfield are creating work that pushes the boundaries of printmaking into an expansive, inclusive practice. Their boldness within the medium corresponds with the resolution with which they work to inform the viewer and expect them to demand change.
Eclectic sculptural works like Always Sorry Girl shared by Karin Broker tend toward the baroque, in both aesthetic inspiration and material complexity. Porcelain figurines that evoke femininity are restricted by burdensome garments of the patriarchy. The manufactured materials—like porcelain limbs, steel chains and hinges, and stencil letters—were created from matrices in other disciplines, illustrating Broker’s irreverence toward not only gender roles but print orthodoxy, as well. Similarly, Lu Colby employs the stitches and patterns of fibers practices to investigate domesticity and gendered division of labor. “Woe Is Me” features embroidery seemingly fraying like the fragile vestiges of an outdated notion of the American Dream. This piece left a particular impact as my family’s own domestic bliss has frayed at times from the cabin fever brought on by the pandemic. That Colby and Broker are approaching similar themes separated by a generation or two shows both the persistence of feminism and the discouraging tenacity of the patriarchy.
Sean Caulfield addresses the ambiguities and tensions that surround inevitable environmental and biological transmutation, through delicate mezzotints and sprawling installations. His biomorphic subjects, like those in “Powerlines”, appear tailormade to critique the irrationality of the present while warning of a possible chimerical future. Juana Estrada Hernandez likewise addresses the irrationality of contemporary America, specifically sentiments and policy regarding undocumented immigration. Pieces like “It Began With Us” deftly highlight the critical contributions immigrants broadly make to the nation’s economy and culture, while bravely sharing the experiences of her family’s migration to the U.S. in order to humanize the sensationalized and put a face with the statistics. While Juana’s works are perhaps the most traditional prints represented in the exhibition, her use of printmaking as a tool for radical change is the most daring.
The term curation feels like an overstatement when describing what it took to choose the work for this exhibition. The pieces by our four awardees fit together seamlessly, so trimming may be a more apt description of what was necessary to hone this collection. The thematic and technical commonalities among their work were immediately apparent, so much so it was hard to believe they weren’t recruited to be shown together by design. Though spanning three generations, they represent the vanguard of approaches and voices progressing this organization and print as an art form—so, make way!
I draw on large Formica panels and paper with Conte Crayon; wire objects with rhinestones, crystals and junk; hammer metal onto wood; weld formed steel into 2-D drawings and make prints. The pieces produced are my personal and not-so-quiet conversations with melancholia; the fifteen-hundred-mile separation from my family; religion, gender inequality, acts of violence towards my sex, acts of courage and brilliance by my tribe and as I age the subtle and not so subtle physical changes to our bodies over time. But the final objects, I hope, also revel in optimism and fairness with a heavy dose of beauty.
Born in Pennsylvania, Karin Broker received a BFA from the University of Iowa and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She studied printmaking under Stanley W. Hayter at the Atelier 17 in Paris. She is professor of printmaking and drawing at Rice University and has been teaching there since 1980. She was the 1994 Texas Artist of the Year and was awarded two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. As a master printer, Karin has worked with a number of artists, including Alice Neel, Pat Steir, Garo Antreasian, and Ed Ruscha. Her artwork is in public collections nationwide including Brooklyn Museum of Art, McNay Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York Public Library, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Blanton Museum of Art and many others.
Lace holds a close relationship to the intimacies of domestic spaces, and is a complex textile in that it is the only fabric that represents both chastity and debauchery. Found in doilies, wedding dresses, table clothes, lingerie, undergarments, etc. this fabric can be considered a representation of both purity and feminine sexual desire. Wearing it as a badge, lace is a symbol of the Madonna/Whore complex in fabric form.
While thinking about this dichotomy, I use traditional mono-printing techniques, embroidery techniques, and other traditional textile processes coupled with the domestic associations surrounding embroidery hoops throughout my work. These pieces aim to elevate the domestic textile in the traditional and academic setting of the gallery. Inspired by the feminist works that came from the Pattern and Decoration Movement of the 1970’s whose art focused on pleasure, optimism, and joy, the decorative and aesthetically pleasing elements help to guide the work as well. The hoops represent cycles, and individually are intimate in size and texture, however as whole, create a larger and rhythmic work that speak to these opposing narratives of theses textiles and mediums.
Lu Colby is an artist currently residing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and is currently receiving her MFA from Louisiana State University in printmaking. Her work uses imagery of domestic items, symbols, and textures to question American gender roles, particularly in the home. In hopes to bring social awareness to these issues, Colby exhibits her work both regionally and nationally. Her hope is for her works to stimulate and spark a conversation about these domestic double standards still happening in American society today, and through these conversations inspire change.
Through printmaking, drawing, installation, and sculpture my work explores themes of environmental and corporeal transformation. The visual images and environments I create blur boundaries between the biological and the technological, the organic and the mechanical, and challenge viewers to consider the implications of this merging. Central to my work is the role that society, community and the individual has in the moment of change. Focusing on broader themes of mutation, metamorphosis, and regeneration involving both the landscape and the individuals that inhabit it, I aim to raise challenging questions for viewers about the role they play. Ultimately, my work focuses on the idea that crisis and change – whether it be environmental, political, or personal – can be a significant and positive catalyst for rebirth, growth and courage.
Sean Caulfield was named a Canada Research Chair in Fine Arts (Tier 2) from 2000 – 2010, and is a Centennial Professor in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Alberta, living and working in Treaty Six territory. He has exhibited his prints, drawings, installations and artist’s books extensively throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, and Japan. Recent exhibitions include: Dyscorpia, Enterprise Square Gallery, University of Alberta; The Flood, Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton; Firedamp, dc3 Art Projects, Edmonton; The Body in Question(s), UQAM Gallery, Montreal; Perceptions of Promise, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, USA/Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta.
My artwork deals with social and political problems surrounding the DACA community along with the inherent negative identity stigma of undocumented immigrants. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is an administrative relief from deportation along with providing work permits for those who arrived illegally as minors. I believe that anti-immigrant sentiments prevail in many parts of the country due to lack of insight on the realities of being labeled an “illegal immigrant”. I immigrated to the United States at the age of seven with my family from Zacatecas, Mexico. My early childhood experiences growing up in the United States as a young immigrant served as inspiration for this current work. My art practice stems from my love of drawing, my Hispanic culture, Mexican folklore, and my family’s migration stories. My motivation has always been to raise awareness about immigrants and their realities. These prints attempt to emotionally impact people in ways that invoke independent thought and understanding for those that used to live in the shadows.
Juana Estrada Hernandez was born in Luis Moya, Zacatecas, Mexico and moved to the United States when she was seven years old. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas. She is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Estrada Hernandez is a recipient of the Southern Graphic Council International Graduate Fellowship Award, SITE Scholars Award, Center of Fine Arts Dean Travel Award, UNM Student Conference Award Program, Ralph W. Douglas Endowed Memorial Scholarship, and amongst others. As a printmaking artist, Estrada Hernandez utilizes her experiences growing up in the United State as a young undocumented immigrant to create work that addresses social and political problems surrounding Hispanic migrant communities. Her creative practice stems from her love of drawing, Mexican folklore, Hispanic culture, and her family’s migration stories.