Beneath the Surface at Davis Art Center Tsao Gallery


“Beneath the Surface” features artwork by members of the California Society of Printmakers, an international organization that promotes the practice and appreciation of contemporary printmaking. The printmakers use traditional and innovative printmaking techniques to express their individual interpretations of the theme. Some artists look, literally, beneath the surface of land and water. Others explore beneath layers of time and hidden meaning or visually peel back layers of marks, texture, and color.

Participating artists:  Shunsuke Ando, Sandra Beard, Sherry Smith Bell, Angélica Carrasco Acevedo, Jen Cole, Hélène Paulette Côté, Alice Cronin, Shari Arai DeBoer, Beth Fein, Dana Harris, Debra Jewell, Joanna Kidd, Dixie Laws, Barbara Milman, hj mooij, Gustavo Mora, Barbara Nilsson, Carrie Ann Plank, Laurel Prieto, Luz Marina Ruiz, Susan Silvester, Maryly Snow, Herlinde Spahr, Colleen Sullivan, Ginger Crawford Tolonen, Frances Valesco, Katherine Venturelli, Pete Villaseñor, and Linda Yoshizawa

Debra Jewell and Hélène Paulette Côté’s prints look beneath the soil. Jewell’s images of trees reference rootedness, decay, and what remains. Côté’s prints depict the pottery of the long vanished Anasazi. After their disappearance the pottery returned to the soil, only to be unearthed again centuries later.

Other artists look beneath the surface of the mind. Joanna Kidd’s “What Are You Thinking” ponders the subtext behind what is said out loud and the thoughts that lie beneath silence. Carrie Ann Plank’s installation uses digital fabrication and traditional printmaking techniques to examine the way that context shifts meaning. Herlinde Spahr’s series “Lying Awake” also examines the territory of the imagination, when thought is submerged and rendered helpless. Surrounded by darkness, the outside world peels away and vision originates from within. Dixie Laws’ “American River 2” appears to be a peaceful scene of trees, sunset, and water along the American River, but under the surface there are feelings of loss and grief.

The works of Sandra Beard, Maryly Snow, and Barbara Milman highlight environmental concerns. Beard’s “Arctic Chorus” series are abstract, process-driven prints that reflect the beauty and awe-inspiring colors and crashing of the ice, as well as the change that is their undeniable cause. Maryly Snow’s “Transient” depicts weather maps of the far north flanking a vast ice field and glacier, dwarfing two dog sled teams in an otherwise ominously empty terrain. Milman’s work examines the effect of climate change on life below the ocean surface. Many marine creatures will suffer from ocean warming and acidification but others, like jellyfish, will prosper in warmer seas.

Frances Valesco looks beneath the surface of the water. The textural marks of “Arenys de Mar #3” were inspired by the ever-changing surface of the sea, which influences what is below and vice versa. Other artists examine the surface of the water as a metaphor for an inner journey. Sherry Smith Bell‘s “Voyage” depicts her journey to new and uncharted waters. Shari Arai DeBoer’s monotype “Navigating I”, inspired by old maps and cartography, explores the idea that as we navigate our lives through the physical world within ourselves there is an abundance of wonder and growth waiting to be discovered and embraced. Ginger Crawford Tolonen‘s “interpret the heavens” [sic] is about that search of the heavens and its plethora of stories from spiritual to astrological. Pete Villaseñor’s “Shaman’s Journey,” inspired by Aztec and Mayan imagery, honors the spiritual underlying forces that accompany our existence.

Shunsuke Ando uses traditional etching techniques to create black and white images that represent his inner spiritual world. In “The Pilgrim III” patches of starry night sky bleed through the landscape, creating a dreamlike atmosphere. Luz Marina Ruiz’s prints are also inspired by the world of dreams and nature. She works from memory, using organic forms and shapes that speak of the essence of the landscape rather than depicting a particular time and place. Intrigued by the experimental nature of printmaking, she gouges, scratches, collages and layers pigment to achieve highly textured surfaces.

Other prints allow the viewer to look beneath the surface of the printmaking process. Katherine Venturelli and Colleen Sullivan’s prints reveal different stages of the artists’ process. Venturelli repurposed proofs from her series “Universe at Play” to create a new work. Each proof shows new changes as Venturelli continued to develop the plate. Her work is a composite of these proofs, revealing different stages of her process as she worked towards created the completed series. Sullivan’s monotype diptych “Two Stories in Tandem” began as several simple drawings, which have been multiplied, reduced, enlarged and combined many times over so that the original drawings are barely recognizable. In the final work, there is a fascinating echoing and repetition of the lines which are ultimately copies of themselves.

Barbara Nilsson sees the world as layers. In “Bees Dance” she uses a back-light and the technique of encaustic monotype to reveal images from various levels of the work. Laurel Prieto uses layers of images and textures to explore her interest in natural cycles of growth and disintegration, and their relationship to the construction of identity.

The prints of Dana Harris, hj mooij, and Linda Yoshizawa use layers to look beneath the surface of time and memory. In “Carousel Study”, Harris uses layers to obscure and to reveal in order to evoke the fragmented nature of memory. She explores her shared history as a twin, delving below the surface of common memories to investigate what and why certain memories remain for each of them. Yoshizawa’s collagraph “Ancestral Mountains” deals with uncovering stories. Every mark on the plate is revealed, showing the history that went into preparing it. Yoshizawa contemplates our connections to our past and to our descendants and honors her heritage with a nod to ancient landscapes.

Image (detail): hj mooij, Time Reversal, stone lithograph, 82″ x 58″, 2007