The wind gusted. The temperature dropped. Snowflakes even fell. None of that diminished the smiles and cheers of printmakers and onlookers as a steamroller proceeded down a closed-off street and giant woodblock prints were peeled away from layers of padding to reveal freshly rolled relief images in all their black-and-white glory.
The action took place this weekend on Central Avenue between Fountain Street and Whalley Avenue at City Wide Open Studios XL’s Steam Roller relief printing event. The event, part of Artspace’s City Wide Open Studios’ Transported Weekend, was co-presented by Westville Village Renaissance Alliance and DaSilva Gallery and featured the work of over a dozen printmakers, students, and fine artists, many of whom referenced CWOS’s theme of dwelling in their work. Event sponsors enlisted the help of public works steamroller operators, who “printed” images by carefully driving over the sizable woodblocks and paper in the middle of the street, on a closed portion of Central Avenue. Saturday’s steamroller operator Robert Roberts, who usually operates a street sweeper, said he was amazed by the effort people put into the artworks and was glad to be part of the process.
Also impressed was the event’s facilitator and visual artist, Roxanne Faber Savage, a veteran of steamroller printmaking who lauded the work presented by participants.
“The whole event and the work of the artists was top quality,” she said. Savage said she liked the different approaches to image-making, including the use by a few artists of computerized numerical control, a system that facilitated the cutting process of some or all of the woodblocks. Local carpenter and furniture maker Willie Hoffman worked with three veteran printmakers to program code for the system.
Most images, however, were created using old-world methods of carving away areas where ink was not desired, with basic hand tools. Creative Arts Workshop printmaking instructor Barbara Harder, who collaborated on an image of Philadelphia row houses with artist Mary Lesser, said the first step in the process involves rolling out a slab of ink.
The ink is then rolled onto the woodblock before paper is applied to the incised, inked surface. With pressure, the ink transfers to the paper creating the corresponding image in reverse.
While the same block can produce an infinite number of prints, most images created during the event were printed in editions of three: one for each artist, and one for each of the sponsoring organizations that will auction the works as part of fundraising campaigns. The images are scheduled to be displayed at Artspace in Ninth Square on Nov. 6, when the first auction will take place.
One of the more detailed and haunting images created during the two-day event was by artist Michael Quirk based on a 1900s photograph depicting “the ugliest house in Australia.” Standing before a dilapidated structure was a row of indigenous slaves linked together by chains.
During Sunday’s print session, there was time for experimentation, as Yvonne Gordon, owner of the Branford Arts Center, swapped out print paper for canvas. While the canvas did not make for a great print, Gordon’s paper prints depicting a cardboard box among trees were layered with symbolism and metaphor.
“People sometimes put themselves in boxes, as well as live in boxes,” Gorden said. “People who live in houses built of trees are lucky enough to have homes and we hope that they reach out to help others.”
Gabriel DaSilva, who managed the printing “bed” and co-owns Westville Frame Shop and DaSilva Gallery, said he got the idea for the monumental printmaking event from Ed McIntire, a customer who came into his Guilford shop to frame giant “Day of the Dead” woodblock prints he had acquired during a visit to Mexico. DaSilva was so impressed with the notion of steamroller printing that he took the idea to the Westville Village Renaissance Alliance and then to Artspace, where they are “always looking for greater neighborhood participation.
“They loved the idea,” he said.
Among the printmakers at the event was Patrick Lawrence, an art instructor at Wilbur Cross High School, who said as many as 26 students, including special education students, had a hand in carving the block print depicting different types of dwellings, as well as a swooshing image of the space shuttle.
Advanced printmaker Allan Greenier, of Westville, preprinted a section of blue lettering on his large portrait of Françoise Dorléac (sister of actress Catherine Deneuve) …
… skulls and skeletons were popular themes as both ceramicist Violet Harlow …
Painter Michael Angelis, of Foundry Square’s 169 East Street studios, was last to print during Sunday’s run. Angelis said he had been working on his detailed block for several months. It included a self portrait and a night-time boat ride by groups of passengers. Part of a series, the long, horizontal block print used multiple pieces of assembled, reclaimed wood to best describe a boat’s composition, according to Angelis.
Liz Pagano, a well known multimedia artist and printmaker whose studio will be open for CWOS’s Erector Square weekend (October 24), said she was humbled and amazed by the talent of all of the artists participating in CWOS and the steamroller project.
David, you really captured the feeling of the day. What a wonderful project and thanks to so many people who made it happen. Gabriel DaSilva, Roxanne Faber Savage, Chris Heitmann, Noé Jimenez, Misti Hanscom, Artspace and all the amazing artists. Who else? Shout them out if I have missed someone!
posted by: Bill Saunders on October 19, 2015 3:05pm
So good to see events like these that bring the neighborhood (and beyond) together and support creativity and hard work. Makes me proud to ive in New Haven.
posted by: Bill Saunders on October 20, 2015 1:31pm
The artists put in a lot of work to make these prints, in fact, the event doesn’t work without them—rather than just receiving one print, and donating two to be auctioned off, I think that the artists should also receive 25% of the proceeds from their auctioned work.
Afterall, You can’t have Arts Organizations without Artists, so if one is receiving a financial benefit, so should the other.
The Saunders Art Philosophy at work here—less a criticism then Food for Thought….
posted by: Bill Saunders on October 20, 2015 2:11pm
If the artists want to donate their proceeds back, that is their choice.
posted by: Gabriel Da silva on October 21, 2015 8:44pm
I’m always amazed your optimism. This event as part of CWOS was a separate event with an application process and a juried selecting of 12 artists. All materials were provided for this event Wood, space, steamroller paper ,ink an experience printmaker to help, and a very enthusiastic army of volunteers. We held a meeting beforehand to explained the process and listening to any concerns someone may had. I personally worked both days meaning the print table, attended a steamroller print event and many trips to gather all the materials necessary to pull this very successful and fun event. The participating artists worked very hard as we did as well, the block the carved belongs to them, we have no said about that they want to do with them
posted by: Bill Saunders on October 22, 2015 1:16pm
I think it is time for Art’s Organizations to really look at themselves and their relationships with artists.
All to often, the artist is provided ‘opportunities’ while the art’s organization uses those opportunities to feather their own pockets with real cash.
In this land where artist’s are standing up and saying, “Look, I am a professional and I don’t work for free”, it is time for the Art’s Organizations to get in line with that and say, ‘You know what, you are right, we are going to stop undervaluing you by making you a legitimate partner in our fundraising efforts.”
Was their an application fee for this juried process???
If so, I definitely rest my case…
posted by: Bill Saunders on October 22, 2015 1:37pm
To elaborate a little more, in the five years that Ideat Village ran ORBIT Gallery, we did not take commissions, but every time somebody sold a piece, something was donated back by the artist, sometimes very generously.
For two years, we ran a little street Festival on a closed down Orange Street, with an open invitation for ‘art’ vendors to vend, with no participation fee. At the end of the day, we passed out anonymous envelopes, for people to make donations (if they wanted), based on how well they did hawking there wares.
There are ways to engage the community with art in a much broader egalitarian sense… but maybe that’s just me and my personality…..
The thing I would like to see happen is a Christmas Art Mart with such a philosophy.
I saw many artists actually selling work in the ‘under $200’ range over these past weeks.
It could be a great Downtown Destination for the Holiday Season. Andy Wolf take note!
posted by: Gabriel Da silva on October 22, 2015 4:16pm
You may need to be more specific about your outlandish accusations about “feather their own pockets with real cash” “Look, I am a professional and I don’t work for free”, I don’t know what you mean by this? No one chain Artist and force them to participate. We at WVRA are not an arts organization, solely a tool to enrich the Westville community and offer the most enjoyment possible with quality events like this and others. I’m sorry that you feel this way about people caring about our community and the place we live. Hope the best in your future events
posted by: Bill Saunders on October 22, 2015 5:54pm
No, No, Gabriel—Don’t take it like that—I was talking in a broad sense, not a specific one.
All I am doing is opening a dialog about different ways community art can/would/could work…
As I said at the entry to this foray—less a criticism than food for thought….
now if we can have an actual dialog, we might be getting somewhere…..
This is not the forum to speak in “generalities.” The “general” question about artists being paid for their time should be asked in a forum of artists and others where a number of people can weigh in. By having this conversation at the end of this article, it cannot help but be perceived as a discussion of the Steamroller Event.
As a Westville artist, I am very thankful for all of the work put in by Gabe, Roxanne, the artists, WVRA, the steam roller operator, Artspace —everyone—for creating a buzz in Westville that drew so many visitors. We had a very successful weekend thanks to the draw of the Steamroller Printing among other things. So here is an instance of artists, and merchants, and volunteers doing something that helped the rest of us artists. And it is my impression that everyone had a really good time working collaboratively. I do a lot of volunteer work to try to get Westville more attention, to increase visibility, to make Westville a destination. I do not do it so that I can sell more work and I do not expect anything in return financially. I do it for the love of community, and that includes a larger general community as well as a smaller community of artists.
The Steamroller project was a huge success because of WVRA and volunteers (not me this time) donating time and talent, artists who made the boards, Artspace for their support and we all benefited from it, if not financially then as a community. This was not an example of artists being taken advantage of - yes that does happen - but I do not believe it happened here. If it did, I invite the artists who felt taken advantage of to contact me directly so we can discuss it. I can be reached through Westville Village Renaissance Alliance. And Bill if you know an artist who participated and is unhappy, please have them contact me asap.
Bill, you said you want a dialogue. Why don’t you arrange something and invite us all to participate?