Friday, October 31, 2008

Year of the Landscape

If the Madison area is lacking in anything, it’s certainly not talented artists. Fourteen are featured in the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission’s 2009  Art Calendar. For their tenth anniversary calendar, the group has returned to a beloved subject: the local landscape.

Here’s a peek at the art highlighted in the year to come:

January: Cross Country Skiers by Dangy Quisling Myrah
From the icy blues and purples of the trees to the skiers’ vibrant coats, this image makes me want to get out and enjoy the great, chilly outdoors.

February: Down the Valley by Leslie DeMuth
There’s something special about winter sunlight in Wisconsin. Perhaps it’s the way the light plays off the snow.

March: Winter Landscape by Patrick Farrell
This painting perfectly encapsulates March, the way snow and ice turn to rain and clouds. It shows the beauty that’s often overlooked this time of year.

April: Contour Farming—Late April by S.V. Medaris
Pastel seems the ideal medium for conveying the freshness of the local landscape in April. Bright yellowy greens signal the start of the season.

May: Dream Flying Over Koshkonong by Doug Hatch
There’s always an excitement in the air as spring comes into its own, and these streaks of vibrant red seem an embodiment of that.

June: Into a June Evening by Jonathan Wilde
The water in this painting looks particularly refreshing, as humans and animals alike know how humid a June evening can be.

July: Elegant Grasses by Lee Weiss
It’s fun to see an unusual—and beautiful—look at a familiar summer scene.

August: Farm View with Watermelon and Tomatoes by John Sayers
Rich color and strong light pay homage to some of Wisconsin’s most beloved summer treats.

September: Reflecting Pond by Mark Arnold
Mellow greens and blues make for a pleasant meditation on the local countryside.

October: The Marsh by Linda Koenig
October equals orange for many people, and this watercolor celebrates this expressively.

November: Fertile Ridge by Larry Welo
I love how this etching captures the intensity and grittiness of November—certainly not the most delicate of months.

December: To Grandmother’s House We Go by Georgene Pomplun
Who wouldn’t want to take a drive through such gorgeous scenery?

Calendars are $7.50 and available at a variety of Madison-area museums, galleries, municipal halls and retailers. Find a list at

Still want more? Then be sure to check out the Tenth Anniversary Art Calendar Retrospective, on display November 1 through January 31 at Overture Center’s Playhouse lobby. The show celebrates the first decade of the art-filled planners, with ten large frames created by Tandem Press filled with all the images from each calendar. An opening reception is November 10, 5–7 p.m., and this is also when the 2009 calendar will be officially introduced.

Images are reproductions of the artists’ work, courtesy of the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fit to Print

I got the chance to tour Tandem Press recently, and I couldn’t have visited the artistic laboratory at a better time.

Activity bustled throughout the factory-like building, which Tandem shares with the state’s car fleet facility, on the city’s near east side.

In the organization’s offices, row upon row of framed prints lined the floor, waiting to be picked up and shipped to two major shows Tandem is participating in, the IFPDA Print Fair 2008 held October 30 through November in New York City and Ink Miami 2008, taking place December 4 through 7.

Also adding excitement was the presence of artist Judy Pfaff, an internationally known sculptor and installation artist who also creates large-scale prints—projects Tandem is known for being able to accommodate thanks to its twelve-by-fifteen-foot press and other equipment.

Pfaff, who has come to Madison several times since her first trip in 1992, was working busily on a print even though she and several of Tandem’s master printers had spent the entire weekend here in the cavernous room filled with presses. They were hurrying to finish works that would be sent to the Miami and New York shows.

Tandem employs seven full-time staff members and relies on the help of four students from UW–Madison, with which the organization is affiliated. All work extremely hard, says executive director Paula Panczenko. “I don’t know how they do it,” she says. “They are just amazing.”

But it’s precisely for this type of diligent work and collaboration that Tandem Press was intended (and named).

In 1986, UW art professor Bill Weege proposed that the art department establish a fine art press, one that would be self-supporting through the sale of prints. He wanted students to gain printmaking experience and artists to have the opportunity to experiment with the medium. Tandem opened the following year.

Panczenko says it’s no coincidence that UW–Madison’s printmaking department is now regarded as the best in the country and that its graduates go on to be leaders in printmaking, teaching and making art. “I think Tandem contributes to that,” she adds.

The organization is also proud of the artists who have come to work on etchings, lithographs, photogravure, digital prints and many other forms of printmaking. Included are David Lynch, Art Spiegelman, Gronk, Robert Stackhouse, Miriam Shapiro, Janet Fish, Robert Cottingham, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Sam Gilliam and Sam Richardson.

Next week, Tandem welcomes Nicola López, who will hold a lecture and artist reception November 14 at 5:30 and 6:30–8 p.m. She’ll be followed by Richard Bosman, Joan Snyder and Suzanne Caporael in later months.

This spring, Tandem—which curates exhibitions at the Dane County Regional Airport—will showcase a collection of works that blend science with art. It’s a theme Panczenko anticipates exploring further in the future.

And the organization is also looking forward to moving closer to the UW campus. Plans are in place to relocate to a state-of-the-art facility just east of the Kohl Center. Collaboration with the university will be simpler in the new home, but Tandem will continue building on the successes it has built.

“There’s a great history of printmakers here,” Panczenko says.

The public is welcome to visit Tandem Press Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., as well as by appointment. For more information, call 263-3437 or visit

Images Year of the Dog #10 and Untitled #8 are by Judy Pfaff and courtesy of Tandem Press.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

November Artist: Living in the Moment

Paula Swaydan Grebel has considered herself an artist for only a decade. But, really, she’s been one her entire life.

She grew up in California drawing, making art, taking classes in school. “I always did something with the arts,” she says. “It was my way of playing. I would doodle—and I still tend to do that—when I was bored.” Later, she earned a BFA from California State University, Long Beach, where she studied under well-known L.A. artist John Lincoln.

Yet Grebel didn’t work as an artist right out of college. Instead, she took a variety of other jobs, even working as a nurse for eleven years. But still, art was always there. “I never stopped drawing,” she says. “And I had great nursing notes.”

When she noticed herself wanting to draw all her patients, she knew art was calling. And she decided to follow it.

Over the past ten years, Grebel, who lives in Plymouth, Wisconsin, has come to specialize in oil paintings, particularly plein air studies and still-life works. She showcases nearly thirty pieces at an exhibition, In the Moment, running through the end of November at Bungalow 1227.

Her focus on plein air painting was an easy choice. “I love to be outside,” she says. “I love the light and sounds and smells. I love to travel.”

She works outside as long as possible throughout the year—and can even paint al fresco in the winter, as long as the sun is shining, it’s not too windy and the temperature is at least thirty-two degrees, she says.

When conditions aren’t favorable, Grebel moves indoors and switches to still-life work. But she tries to keep the spontaneity of her outdoor art, sometimes throwing random objects on a table to paint or asking one of her kids to choose a subject for her. “I like that chaos,” she says.

Grebel has been complimented on her ability to capture a moment in time in her work. “Part of what helps me is not to pre-plan,” she says. “If you pre-plan on your canvas and grid it out, the moment’s gone.”

She also holds back from using too much detail because she doesn’t like making photo-realistic paintings in which every element is crisply delineated. “That’s telling me too much,” she says. “I want mystery.”

By revealing her impressions of a single moment to viewers, Grebel strives to show the beauty of the world and new ways of looking at it.

“I hope that I create an emotional response of joy or something that’s positive—that it’s a good soulful experience,” she says. “The true job of an artist is to learn to see.”

IN THE MAGAZINE: The November issue of Madison Magazine comes out tomorrow. Here’s some of the arts content you’ll find within the pages:
• A tidbit on the Chicago-based Giving Tree Band, which recorded a green album at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center this summer. (Read more in this July 2 post.)
• Associate and style editor Shayna Miller’s Window Shopping column on paper goods and artsy gifts at Anthology.
• A profile on Valerie Kazamias, the force behind MMoCA and the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s annual Arts Ball.
• A poem by Andrea Potos (listen her poetry podcast).
• Our monthly Overtones section with picks on the can’t-miss performances, concerts, exhibitions and festivals taking place in November.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cold Comfort

Today feels like fall has officially arrived, and it appears the chiller weather is here to stay.

While I could bemoan the temperature drop, this weekend I’m going to regard it as an invitation to step into Overture Center and be whisked away by the Madison Symphony Orchestra for a few hours. While escapism via the arts is fun any time of year, I think it’s enhanced when the word beyond the theater is cold and dark.

MSO has a rich program in store this weekend, a concert of Copland, Elgar and Holst featuring guest conductor Chosei Komatsu and cellist Alban Gerhardt. Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Music director and conductor John DeMain met Komatsu in 2007 at the Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Costa Rica, where he is artistic director; he’s also music director of Japan’s Central Aichi Symphony Orchestra. This weekend serves as Komatsu’s Madison debut, and he will open with Aaron Copland’s An Outdoor Overture, a work DeMain describes as an embodiment of the American spirit.

The second work, Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto, will showcase the talent of guest performer Gerhardt, a young German cellist quickly making a name for himself in Europe and beyond. On the MSO website, DeMain describes how the cellist and concerto are a natural fit. “I’m excited to bring back Alban Gerhardt, one of the most sought-after European cellists, for the Elgar Concerto. It’s not just one of the most important cello concertos; it’s also a great audience favorite because of its delicacy and melancholic beauty.”

And a highlight is sure to be Gustav Holst’s The Planets, one of the most popular classical music works—and considered to be inspiration for John Williams’ Star Wars music. Dramatic and powerful, it showcases a range of emotions. Says DeMain, “It will be thrilling to hear this work performed live in Overture Hall, where all of its moods will blossom.”

As much as I enjoy an evening or afternoon musical getaway, I particularly love that in Madison anyone who wants to can have this experience. It’s not just for music lovers of a certain age or income level. In fact, MSO is making it easy and fun for young adults to attend concerts with its Club 201. Under this program, a joint effort between the Symphony and Madison MAGNET targeting Madisonians ages 21 to 39, classical music lovers can get discounted tickets and an invitation to a post-concert party at a local hotspot. After this Friday’s concert, Club 201-ers will head to Fromagination for wine and a Wisconsin cheese tasting.

But what if you don’t fall into the young music aficionado category? Or you’re already booked up this weekend? Well, there’s another related program open to public tomorrow. An Open Dress Rehearsal takes place 7–9:30 p.m. at Overture Hall. It’s free but only 250 spots are available and advance reservations are required (call 257.3734).

Here’s a look at the rest of MSO’s 2008–2009 Season:

November 7–9: Barber, Brahms, Tormis and Shostakovich featuring conductor Anu Tali and violinist Sarah Chang.

December 5–7: Christmas Spectacular featuring conductor John DeMain, soprano Jamie-Rose Guarrine, tenor Gregory Turay, the Madison Symphony Chorus, Madison Youth Choirs, Mount Zion Gospel Choir and Madison Area Concert Handbells.
Club 201: Holiday Party. December 5 at Barriques.

January 16–18: Mozart, Sibelius and Prokofiev featuring conductor Daniel Hege, violinist Hanning Kraggerud and narrator James DeVita.
Open Dress Rehearsal. January 15, 7–9:30 p.m.

February 6–8: A Feast of Beethoven featuring conductor John DeMain and pianist Olga Kern.
Club 201: Beethoven & Beer. February 6 at Café Montmartre.

March 6–8: Borodin, Stravinsky and Dvořák featuring conductor Yoav Talmi and violinist Julian Rachlin.

April 3–5: Wagner, Saint-Saëns and Brahms featuring conductor John DeMain and pianist André Watts.
Open Dress Rehearsal. April 2, 7–9:30 p.m.
Club 201: Spring Romance. April 3 at Fresco.

May 1–3: Verdi Requiem featuring conductor John DeMain, soprano Karen Slack, mezzo-soprano Kristine Jepson, tenor Arnold Rawls, bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen and the Madison Symphony Chorus.

Photos of Gerhardt and Komatsu are courtesy of the Madison Symphony Orchestra.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Water Works

Sometimes a stroke of bad luck turns out to be a very good thing.

For Henry Drewal, a professor of art history and Afro-American studies at UW–Madison, his blessing in disguise took place in Ghana in 1975. A specialist in Yoruba art—which he first became interested in while working in Nigeria with the Peace Corps in the sixties—he had just received a grant to conduct research in Nigeria. But when the border closed unexpectedly, he found himself stuck in Ghana.

That’s when he began to notice shrines, temples and statues dedicated to Mami Wata, a water deity believed to bring health, wealth and good fortune. “Everywhere I turned, she was there,” he says.

Intrigued by what he saw, Drewal quickly adjusted his plans.

“The more I stayed there the more I saw how vibrant Mami Wata worship was,” he says. “So I stayed and worked on that topic.”

And he’s continued working on the topic for over thirty years. All of this research has culminated in Mami Wata: Arts for Water Spirits in Africa and Its Diasporas, an exhibition exploring five hundred years of the visual culture and history of water deities.

Drewal curated the exhibition, which was organized and started at the Fowler Museum at UCLA in April. From October 18 to January 11 it will be showcased at Madison’s Chazen Museum of Art. Then it will travel on to the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC; the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia; and the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University.

The exhibition reveals the great diversity of media used to honor Mami Wata. Sculpture, masks, costumes, paintings, prints and multimedia works show the many faces of water spirits. And that the works come from west and central Africa, the Caribbean, Brazil and the United States show how widespread worship of Mami Wata has become.

“There are other visual and belief histories with movement across time and space,” Drewal says. “But water has always intrigued us, especially the sea.”

Not surprisingly, the nature—and imagery—of Mami Wata worship changed as it traveled and was met with new influences. For instance, in the fifteenth century European ships and coins made their way to Africa, merging images of mermaids with hybrid aquatic creatures found in indigenous rock paintings, masks and sculptures.

“It really starts to flourish in Africa at this first contact,” Drewal says.

As enslaved Africans were moved across the Atlantic, their traditions became part of local spiritual practices. And the image of the snake charmer was incorporated into Mami Wata visual culture in the late 1800s after a German poster reached West Africa; it was soon interpreted as an African water spirit. Later, traders from India brought prints of Hindu gods and goddesses to Africa, where they were adapted into female and male water spirits.

While his research on Mami Wata is intensive, Drewal is not the only scholar interested in the subject. In fact, he invited many of his colleagues to write articles for the exhibition catalog. And he’s also about to publish a large edited volume with forty-six contributions from academics, priests, artists and photographers offering unique perspectives on Mami Wata. The book will include a DVD with images, music, poetry and film clips.

And while many Madisonians likely aren’t familiar Mami Wata, Drewal thinks the city is a natural host for the exhibition.

“We live on an isthmus,” he says. “We live between two bodies of sacred water.”

The Chazen is holding a variety of events related to Mami Wata. For more information, visit

October 17: A Carnival of Water Creatures
“Mami Wata’s Big Splash!” Lecture by exhibition curator Henry Drewal. 6 p.m., room L140. Free admission.
Mami Wata Costume Reception in Paige Court, 7–9 p.m. $8 members, $12 nonmembers, $5 UW students with I.D.

October 18: Celebrate Water Spirits!: A Family Day 12–4 p.m. Free admission. Children under 12 should be accompanied by an adult.

Sunday October 19: Exhibition Catalogue Signing 2:15 p.m. In conjunction with the Wisconsin Book Festival, curator Henry Drewal will give a brief reading and sign exhibition catalogues.

Docent-led Drop-in Tours
Tuesdays, 4 p.m., November 11–December 16. Meet in Paige Court.

Lectures on Water Spirits
• October 23: “Arts for Water Spirits in HaitianVodou.” Lecture by Marilyn Houlberg, professor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago. 6 p.m., room L150.
• October 30: “Mermaids and End-Time Jezebels: New Tales from Old Calabar.” Lecture by Rosalind I. J. Hackett, distinguished professor in the humanities (professor of religious studies), University of Tennessee. 6 p.m., room L150
• November 25: “Undercurrents: Secrecy, Initiation, and other Sightings of Mami Wata below the Radar.” Lecture by Amy L. Powell, UW–Madison Ph.D. student in art history. 6 p.m., meet in Gallery VII.
• December 4: “Osun and other Yoruba Water Divinities in the African Diaspora.” Lecture by Bolaji Campbell, assistant professor, Rhode Island School of Design. 6 p.m., room L150

Artists Talks
• November 13: “An/atom/y of a Story,” Obiora Udechukwu, professor of art, St. Lawrence University, N.Y. 6 p.m., room L150.
• November 20: “Cool Women and Hot Combs,” Sonya Clark, chair of Craft/Material Studies, School of the Arts, Virginia Commonwealth University. 6 p.m., room L150.

Water Matters: A Lecture Series
Organized by the UW Aquatic Sciences Center and the Department of Art History to enhance public awareness and understanding of water resources in a changing climate. Free and open to the public. For more information call 608 262-0905 or visit
• October 21: MadTown Singers. Keynote address: “The Sacredness of Water,” Patty Loew, associate professor of life sciences communication, UW–Madison. 6 p.m., room L150.
• October 28: “Conversations on Race, Privilege, and the Environmental Movement,” Carolyn Finney, assistant professor of geography, University of California at Berkeley, and Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees, artist/activist. 6 p.m., room L150.
• November 6: “History of Wild Rice and its Restoration,” Anthony Kern, associate professor of biology, Northland College. “The Past, Present and Future of Great Lakes Fisheries,” Jim Kitchell, director of the UW–Madison Center for Limnology. 6 p.m., room L150.
• November 11: “Water and the Law: Two Wisconsin Ojibwe Cases,” Larry Nesper, associate professor of anthropology and American Indian studies, UW–Madison. 6 p.m., room L150.
• November 18: “Wisconsin Groundwater Resources,” Anders W. Andren, director of the UW–Madison Aquatic Sciences Center. “Global Warming and its Implications for Wisconsin/Great Lakes Waters,” John J. Magnuson, director emeritus of the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. 6 p.m., room L150.

Film at UW Cinematheque
Free admission. 4070 Vilas Hall, 821 University Avenue. Doors open at 7 p.m. Titles subject to change. Find more info at
• October 24: Mammy Water (La Pêche et le culte de la mer), 1953, and the documentary Le Niger. 7:30 p.m.
• October 25: Faro, la reine des eaux (Faro, Goddess of Water), 2007. 7:30 p.m.

Film at the Wisconsin Union
Free admission. Contact 262-1143 or for more info.
• November 8: Lady in the Water, 2006. 11:59 p.m. Union South, Main Lounge.
• November 10: Big Fish, 2003. 7:30 p.m. Memorial Union, Play Circle
• November 20: Incident at Loch Ness, 2004. 7:30 p.m. Memorial Union, Play Circle

Jazz at the Chazen
November 21: The Onus Trio. 7–9 p.m., room L150.

Images are courtesy of the Chazen Museum of Art.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hit the Road

Cora Hardin has a vision for Open Art Studios, the annual event in which artists throughout the Madison area open their workspaces to the public.

Someday, Madisonians will eagerly await OAS posting its line-up of artists online. They’ll flock to the site to see who’s participating and to plan out their route to visit as many artists as possible. And the studios tour will attract art aficionados and novices alike—just as the Wisconsin Film Festival appeals to film buffs and the casual movie watcher, says Hardin, this year’s coordinator of the all-volunteer event.

While OAS is in its sixth year—it takes place Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with an exhibition at Overture Center running through October 10—it has a ways to go before reaching this level of buzz, Hardin admits. But she believes it can happen, especially as more people learn about the event and check it out.

This year, 136 artists will showcase art ranging from paintings to pottery, jewelry to glasswork. Because the event is not juried, there are no limits to what the artists can feature. “They can show anything they want,” Hardin says.

The tour affords opportunities to see a wide variety of art, see where the work is created and talk with the artists. Some studios also have activities for visitors.

Visit for an artists directory and tour map, Hardin suggests. You may be surprised at how close to home art is being created. “You can go to one or two studios in your neighborhood,” she says. “It’s fascinating because you never would think your neighbor does this.”

And here’s an introduction to four artists participating this year:
Why are you participating in Open Art Studios?

The Open Studios creates an opportunity for individuals to meet, talk to and learn about the artists who share their community. I participate in the Open Art Studios to give the Madison community a chance to come in and see how and where I do my creative work. I enjoy having the opportunity to talk about my art with people who are interested enough in it to make the effort to come to my studio. By dedicating one weekend a year to opening the doors of my studio I can share my art and my work space with those who follow my art, and introduce myself as an artist to those who don't know me yet. It also guarantees that I will clean my studio at least once a year.

I have participated in the Open Art Studios every year since they started except for one year when I was teaching art workshops in Alaska.

Tell me about your art.

While I work in a number of mediums the artworks I am best know for are highly rendered, often large scale, representational watercolors with narrative themes. My work often draws on subjects associated with women or the environment or both.

What are three words you’d use to describe your work?

Beautiful, layered, meaningful.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the creative work of the artists who were not recognized as such, but whose art surrounded me as I grew up in rural Wisconsin: quilters, lace makers, gardeners and other people who made art for daily use. I am also inspired by the natural world and the search to understand ourselves as a part of nature, realizing that what we do to it we do to ourselves and vice versa.

Part of open studios is giving the public a glimpse of the art-making process. What do people commonly misunderstand about your art?

Sometimes people think my quilt paintings are photographs of quilts I've made. I also think some people think of art in general as entertainment while I understand it as representing important intellectual and creative thinking about everything we value in the world represented visually.

What do you hope people get from meeting you or seeing your work?

I hope people come away from experiencing my art and talking to me with several possible reactions. I hope my art gives the viewer a place to pause in deep pleasure for a long time; I hope it makes them stop and reconsider what surrounds them every day through new eyes; I hope they understand art making as an important contribution to our culture and I hope it makes them want to make a larger place in their own lives for the creative process.

Cate Loughran 

Why are you participating in Open Art Studios?

I am the person who originally brought Open Studios to Madison. I lived in California for eleven years, until 2001. In California Open Studios is a way of life. From San Francisco, to the Sierras, to Napa Valley they are established and very popular. I simply created a structure that fit the Midwest and began talking to people about the idea. This was in 2003. Now it is n popular annual art event. This makes me proud. I am participating because I want to use this forum to show the public my new body of art.

Tell me about your art.

I consider myself a visionary. I view my artwork as inspiring, uplifting, and peaceful. I work with nature, both mother nature and the human nature. I paint, photograph, draw and most of the time work in the world of mixed media. I like the freedom to use whatever techniques necessary to create the most perfect image. I like the freedom to work with landscape and portraiture and floral and any other genre I wish.

Generally my process is collecting images, which include my photographs, drawings, paintings, and others as well. An idea strikes me, somehow... I then proceed to find the images that will best illustrate the idea. This part of the process is something like making a collage, but with the computer, via Photoshop. I have used up eleven photographs in one image; sometimes I use one. After I refine the image, I print it on cotton paper, usually Arches hot press watercolor paper. I then go into the piece with soft pastel, sometimes watercolor and even glitter. I spend sometimes days working the image after the print stage. This makes the image one of a kind, even though there is a printing process involved.

What are three words you’d use to describe your work?

Illuminated Realism is a term I coined to describe my work. Sometimes simply beautiful, other times metaphysical, always reverent to nature and the human condition. There is a surrealistic edge to my work, but my message is always straightforward.

What inspires you?

Nature, both human and mother nature, inspires me.

Part of open studios is giving the public a glimpse of the art-making process. What do people commonly misunderstand about your art?

People sometimes don't realize they too can be artists...

What do you hope people get from meeting you or seeing your work?

I want people to feel lighter, more hopeful about life. I want my work to inspire optimism this.

Karen Calkins Ragus 

Why are you participating in Open Art Studios?

I am participating in the MOAS because I think it is important for the public to see how art is made and what the artist goes through to do it. There are hundreds of decisions that an artist makes to complete a work of art.

I have been part of the MPAS before. I was in the first two shows and I participated last year.

Tell me about your art.

I would say that I am an abstract painter and print maker. I work in water media for the paintings and oil inks for the printmaking. I am unlimited in size for the paintings but my etching press limits the size of my prints.

What are three words you’d use to describe your work?

The three words that describe my work are … abstract, mysterious and exciting.

What inspires you?

Shape, line, texture, color and all the elements of design inspire me … not objects, except for the human figure.

Part of open studios is giving the public a glimpse of the art-making process. What do people commonly misunderstand about your art?

There is no accounting for any one’s taste in art or anything else for that matter. The person who might say, “Oh, I could do that” isn't the person who would like my work. For the most part, the average person doesn’t know how the artist gets to abstract. The artist first takes a long road through representational work.

What do you hope people get from meeting you or seeing your work?

I want people to have an experience you can’t get from a book or the media. “Open your eyes and your mind and see what you are not used to.”

Nick Wroblewski 

Why are you participating in Open Art Studios?

I am participating in the Open Art Studios because I am new to the Madison area, recently moved here from Minneapolis. This will be my first time. I am quite excited to show my space and work because I have expanded my operation to a larger studio space, including a 40” x 72” printing press, large drying rack, ink brayers, etc. It is my way of introducing myself and my artwork to Madison.

Tell me about your art.

I make woodcut block prints. The images are usually inspired by the natural world, presently I am very interested in the larger dynamics of nature such as the ways the hydrological cycle churns, the ways that animals move, migrate, and reproduce. I am drawn to forms that express movement in nature: the way a landscape possesses a “gesture” or a stark horizon line defines sky and earth. My prints are multi-colored, large-scale images that contain plants, animals, and landscapes.

What are three words you’d use to describe your work?

I would describe my work in three words as dynamic, vibrant and organic.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by the gradation of the sky during a setting sun. By the way lines of woodgrain mirror the subtle wisps of cirrus clouds. By the way the forces of nature absorb water, purify it, and release it back. By the way the moon draws water not only through the tides but also through the ground and up to the tips of plants. I am also inspired by how nature solves the most complex of problems in the most elegantly simple ways. I am not inspired by the net result (chain stores) of capitalism. One would get the sense driving across America that creativity and imagination have all but dried up. What is so mind-blowing about a Cabela's Super Store? How about the arial dynamics of a hummingbird?

Part of open studios is giving the public a glimpse of the art-making process. What do people commonly misunderstand about your art?

The process that I use to make my prints is sometimes hard to grasp. I generally print the final piece from two blocks of wood. One block is the background (negative space) and the other is the foreground (positive). I also print each color individually from light to dark. I am able to print more than two colors from two blocks because I use a technique called “reduction.” In a reduction print, one carves away the area that was previously printed that is to remain the last printed color. All the texture that is left is then inked and printed on top of the last color and so on down the line until most of the block is carved away. This concept of carving away what you want to keep usually is one of the crazier concepts to grasp when describing my technique. One also has to be very familiar with seeing the negative space around an object as opposed to the object itself.

What do you hope people get from meeting you or seeing your work?

I hope folks who come by the studio are able to get a sense of how a multi-block woodcut is made. They will be able to see the tools, the rollers, and the press and to hopefully see examples of the blocks that were used to make a specific image. Also, I really hope that viewers can see my work and get a sense of the whole, i.e the “spirit” of animals interacting, the "gesture" of a landscape, or the simple beauty of color as a way to define space.