Mono is Many

Allan Appel PhotoThe traffic in the cities of Gujarat in western India was so bad this spring — minimal order amid always imminent chaos — that Meghan Shah started painting lines on inexpensive scarves she bought on the street corner for 60 rupees each, which is less than a dollar.

After a while she realized what she was doing: investing in her own unique transportation infrastructure that could carry her wherever her artistic imagination wanted to go, without delays.

Now back home in New Haven, that road is leading her to go back to graduate school in making textile art.

That story emerged along with many others at Mono is Many, an informative and wide-ranging show about monotypes — the one-of-a-kind, easy to make, and often surprising print-making process — that is popular with artists.

Gallery PhotoThe show fills the long corridor at the Arts Council of Greater New Haven‘s Sumner McKnight Crosby Jr. Gallery and runs through June 17.

In addition to Shah, the other artists in the exhibition showing their monotypes or monoprints include Aspasia Anos, Binnie Birstein, Leah Caroline, Judie Cavanaugh, Claudia Cron, Irene Miller, Liz Pagano, Marisa Taddei, Paul Theriault, and Mark Williams.

Curators Debbie Hess and Jennifer Van Elswyk wanted to show the wide range of media on which artists work this technique, using paint or beeswax or whatever you want on any surface that allows you to pull a single unique print. They have succeeded in showing a lot in the gallery’s modest space.

In addition to Shah’s scarves on gorgette, also on display are the results of monotypes created from lithographic plates, silk screens, and linoleum blocks, the latter as in the work of Hamden-based graphic artist Marisa Taddei. She makes creative use of the leaves of the gingko tree across the street from her house.

“There’s an element of surprise, the happy accident, you have control and then you don’t,” Taddei said about why she’s drawn to the process.

Because after you ink the surface and lay down the paper, and then pull the pressed paper from the plate, “the result is [often] different from what you perceive,” she said.

Liz Pagano, who was showing a series combining woodcut and collage with monotype, said she too likes the surprise. She also likes the speed of the process which can often provide “immediate gratification.”

“I can get a layer in a short time. Even if I don’t like the first layer, I can print it again,” she said.

Perhaps the most unusual item in the exhibition is Paul Theriault’s “Scanner Painting #29,” which sat in a back-lit display device, leaning against the lower wall of the gallery, and glowed at the artists and their admirers who thronged Thursday’s opening reception.

It was as if his piece were visually tickling people’s shins and saying: I bet you’re all thinking how I did this.

Theriault, who generally works with digitally constructed imagery, was not available to explain how he carried out his monotype. His artist statement says he applies oil paint directly to a scanner bed [Roll the clean-up video] and that is scanned into his computer.

After that initial scan, the painted scanner is itself scanned by an additional device, he writes, and then the files are merged.

“This process allows for freedom from datum and pixels associated with digital art,” he writes.

It also allows, as does the whole show, for artists themselves as well as civilians to realize how closely connected to every end result is the process of getting there.

For Shah, who had never worked unique prints on fabric before, the experience has opened new learning and also career paths. Her next steps include, in additon to graduate school, making scarves using better inks that won’t smudge and dissolve with human sweat, and printing on better quality fabrics that can actually be sold.

She’s actually beginning to take seriously, she said, the prospect that you can have a remunerative career as an artist.

Remarkable. And all that thanks to monotypes.

The works are on view daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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