2 min read

A Conversation with Printmaking Instructor Melissa Wagner-Lawler


Your work investigates the destruction of language and communication. How do printmaking techniques and book forms promote those concepts?

With printmaking and book arts, I work rather intuitively; a process that seems to go against the established nature of those two forms. A lot of my print work is derived from destroying an image - I'll take or find copyright-free images and manipulate them digitally until they are no longer discernible to the original image. These images are then further altered through the printing process through layering and inking choices in the printshop. Much like how our language and communication styles evolve over time, each project follows a similar sort of path in that the original idea is transformed through the process of making it.
What projects are you currently working on?
Right now, I have a few projects that I am working on. I've been in the printshop working on a series of monotype prints that investigate shadowy, fictional landscapes. Each print has many passes through the press with the monotype process to build depth and the illusion of space within the work. These are still very new, so I don't have a lot to say about them conceptually yet, but I'm very drawn to the aesthetic of what's happening with these prints.

I'm also working to wrap up an artist book project that has been in progress for some time. The book is a large-scale, single-sheet fold book printed from a 2' x 4' digitally CNC-routed relief block. There are a few more layers to be added through screen printing and then the book will be ready to be bound and have a container created to house it.
How does your practice impact your teaching philosophy? And vice versa?
My studio and teaching philosophy are centered around one phrase - "embrace the mystery". Many times beginning printmakers will get too hung up on the technical aspects of the process or try to force a technique to resemble something they are more familiar with, such as photography or painting. I try to remind them that printmaking has similar, but not identical, aesthetics to these processes and that through experimentation they will discover something new to incorporate into their practice. 
What are you most looking forward to during your time teaching at PenArt?
Working with a new group of students is always the highlight of any new class. I'm also excited to be inspired by the surroundings at PenArt and see how this might come into play in my future work.
How can we find you and your work on social media and the web?
All of my work is available for viewing on my website. 


Melissa will be teaching "Experimental Printmaking and Book Arts" July 13-15, 2017. Learn more about her workshop here.

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