In 2014, after working for many years on classically-inspired drawing and painting, I took up printmaking. Prints allowed me to combine the two traditions I love: fine art, with its idealism, and cartooning, with its playfulness. In prints I can be both elegant and silly, profound and vulgar.
I take much of my imagery from myths, dreams and stories. My protagonists, vulnerable and often in danger, are sometimes, but not always, heroic. I want viewers to identify with them, and to feel the complexity of their situations.
My technique, a 500-year-old practice, involves using acid to etch lines and shapes into copper plates. For each plate, I fill the etched indents with ink, then wipe the surface clean. I run the inked plates, along with thick, damp paper, through my press. The force of the press fuses ink and paper together, deeply and permanently. The final image gains authority in this transformation.
That authority helps me to communicate my concerns: How do we move forward when survival is at stake? How do we repair the damage we have already done? How do we restore what we are still destroying? My theory is this: to challenge despair, a work of art must point toward something unexpected, the thing that doesn’t fit. Puzzlement can lead us inward, to reassess assumptions. What at first looked like nonsense may begin to make sense, or a seemingly charming image, viewed closely, may deliver a shock. New ideas may follow, for both artist and viewer. New understanding can open a path.
I am inspired by 20th century print and comic artists. I owe a special debt to comic artist George Herriman, whose genius, personified by Krazy Kat, never fails to boost my spirits and my creativity. My gratitude also goes to Reginald Marsh and George Bellows (printmakers and painters), and Tove Jansson (artist and cartoonist) for providing strong social and psychological points of reference. Beyond artistic influences, my personal outlook and processes are inspired by the late philosopher and psychologist Eugene Gendlin. He taught me, among many other things, that nightmares contain treasures, and that, with patience and curiosity, we can receive them.
I thank the Dena’ina people, on whose land in Alaska I have lived, an uninvited guest, for nearly 40 years. Their hospitality makes my work possible.