Mix and Match

I’m working on a couple of new linoleum blocks but they aren’t ready to show yet, so I’ll revisit some more work from this past fall’s etching class.

My etching instructor, Rebecca, had a wonderful knack for just saying a word here or there that opened up a whole new train of thought and work. I had done two versions of Baba Yaga, one etching and one linoleum block, and was musing about how to integrate my various printmaking interests. Rebecca tossed off the idea that it might be fun to try a chine colle using a block print as the added paper. And so a whole new project was born.

Of course, being insane, I didn’t just experiment with one image. I immediately launched into a set of four tangentially related etchings, with four corresponding block prints. My theme was based (loosely) on the town of Freedom, California, which has a wonderful name. It is largely agricultural, and when you drive through the township you see all the workers bending over in the sun, tending to the fields and working hurriedly to maximize their piece-work wages. Most are Mexican, and I suspect a fair number are probably illegal immigrants; all are trying to realize the American dream. They are looking for freedom, but the back-breaking work, long hours, exposure to chemicals and pesticides, poor housing, and sometimes exploitative employers belie the idea or image of freedom.

The four image sets I came up with are fields (block print) with pickers (etching); telephone poles (block print) with housing (etching); a chicken — the colloquial term for an illegal alien who pays someone to lead them across the border (both block print and etching); and a coyote — the term for the person who leads immigrants across the border (intended block print and etching, but only finished the etching).

My idea was to take all these images and print them all on one sheet, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s prints.
Andy Warhol's print of Marilyn Monroe

But my idea for the block print of the coyote never came true; I tried carving it several times without success, I suspect because I hadn’t really taken the time to think it all the way through. So the four-up vision never happened, either, and a group print of three images is no where as easy to lay out as a group of four. I had a lot of fun playing with the various images, however, and since it was all an experiment in the first place, I have to say I’m pleased with the results.

Here is the coyote and chicken with a couple of yellow chine colle bars holding them together.
Coyote and chicken with yellow

The coyote with the block print version of the chicken. In this case, I printed the block print off-center, so the etching would be on the rice paper of the block print, yet not overlaid over the block print.
Coyote and chicken faceoff

Here is the chicken etching on top of the chicken block print.
Chicken on chicken action

Housing and telephone poles.
Housing and telephone poles

Workers and fields. I like how the workers are so ephemeral against the background.
Working in the fields

This is the closest I came to realizing my initial vision: coyote, fieldworkers, and chicken.
Trio of prints

I’m looking forward to devising other projects where I combine printmaking techniques. This gave me much food for thought!

Author: Melissa

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