Thursday, August 25, 2011

Japan Broadside

Letterpress broadside by Katie Baldwin, 2011
To help fund my trip to Japan I created a letterpress broadside. To develop the text and imagery for this broadside, I combined an excerpt of text from one of my artist books and imagery from one of my mokuhanga prints. The text and imagery for the broadside is printed from polymer plates made from an ink drawing. The broadsides are hand colored and printed in an edition of 85. The paper size is 8.5 x 11 inches. They are available for purchase for $35 at my Etsy store.

The original text was written in 2004 when I traveled to Japan for the first time. The text was created for the artist book Treasure, which was printed and published at the Women's Studio Workshop. In its entirety the text reads:

                                         She had changed
                                         her name to Treasure.

                                         One Tuesday she made
                                         it legal.
                                         And on Wednesday
                                         she made it official--
                                         she would leave.

                                         Now looking back, she
                                         could not figure out 
                                         the actual
                                         moment when she did
                                         start over.

                                        This much she knows:
                                        it did not happen in the air,
                                        but here
                                        on the ground,

                                       This land was made of fire.
                                       And she found it everywhere.

When I wrote this text I was thinking about how people are changed by their experiences in the world.  In this poem, the main character is changed by things that are both physical and tangible: the ground that she walks on is unstable and it affects her deeply. The imagery for this broadside was originally developed for a print I did in mokuhanga titled: Throwing Our Things In The River Below. I adapted aspects of the original print for this broadside because the whale emerging from the water created a visual analogue with the printed text.

This broadside began with the carving of the cloud shape out of linoleum. The linoleum was mounted on wood in order to make it type-high, locked up and printed on a Vandercook number 4.

Lock-up on the Vandercook. (Photo credit: Sarah Alfarhan.)
First layer printed in silver. (Photo credit: Sarah Alfarhan.)
Because the imagery was too large to print on my 9 x 12 magnetic base in one run, I had to print the image section by section. I made my own polymer plates from a series of ink drawings on frosted mylar.

Proofing the first polymer plate. (Photo credit: Sarah Alfarhan.)
Proofing the polymer plate is essential in making sure the position is correct on the page, the ink is consistent, and that the plate is creating the proper impression.

The four sections of the image are printed. Printing the text is next. (Photo credit: Sarah Alfarhan.)
I wrote the poem out by hand and from my own writing made the plate. The text was the final printed layer.
Final printed layer. (Photo credit: Sarah Alfarhan.)
After the final layer of printing is done, I am ready to hand paint the whale and the water. It takes a surprising amount of time. For me the printing felt much faster, while in contrast the painting was quite tedious. Fortunately/Unfortunately, I lost track of how many Battlestar Galactica episodes I watched.

My painting station at the Vermont Studio Center.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


The day before I left for Japan, I met Sarah Suzuki, Associate Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books, Museum of Modern Art in New York, at the the Print Center's 85th Annual International Competition in Printmaking. She had suggested that while in Japan, I make my way to Naoshima, an island located on the Seto Inland Sea.

Mariko, Yoonmi, Helen and I started our journey on the SHINKANSEN!

From the Shinkansen, we switched to a smaller, slower train. And then again to an even smaller, even slower train. And then to a ferry. And then to a bus. And finally, we found ourselves traveling by foot on the island in a lovely mist of rainfall.
From front to back: Mariko Jesse, Yoonmi Nam, Katie Baldwin, and Helen Blue
On the island there are were several sight specific artworks. We took our time walking along the beach, climbing over, under, and through the sculptures. Not many people were on the beach and it seemed that we had the artwork and this Japanese island a bit to ourselves.

Kelen and Hatie (or Katen and Helie?) inside an installation on Naoshima. Photo credit: Mariko Jesse
My favorite sculpture was "Pumpkin" by Yayoi Kusama.
I know I am not alone in liking it so much. The color, the scale, the pattern, and the location
make this artwork so perfectly likeable.

Helen, Mariko, Katie and Yoonmi posing with the pumpkin. Photo credit: Mariko Jesse.

Naoshima is particularly known for its contemporary art museums. The Chichu Art Museum and the Benesse House were both designed by Tadao Ando. The Chichu Art Museum houses a number of contemporary art works that include James Turrell and Claude Monet.

As we came to the wing of the museum designed for viewing the paintings by Monet, we were instructed to take off our shoes and replace them with the provided slippers. Shuffling in our slippers, we entered an unusually large and strangely shaped white room. The most powerful aspect of this room was its whiteness. I believe this room was meant to cleanse our visual pallet before we viewed the paintings. When I left the pallet cleansing room and entered the room with the paintings, I was overwhelmed by the presentation of the paintings and the space designed to house them. Instead of large gilded gold frames, these Monet paintings were framed in very large modern shiny white frames. The room was so large that the paintings seemed surprisingly small. And I just couldn't keep my eyes off the 1 inch square stones that made up the floor.

The works by James Turrell were particularly great. The art worked seamlessly with the architecture, light, location, and aesthetic of the museum designed to house them. We experienced optical and spacial illusions in the best way that James Turrell can deliver.

Yoonmi, Helen, Katie checking out "Open Sky", 2004 by James Turrell. Photo credit: Mariko Jesse.

No hotel for us: we chose to spend the night on the beach in a Mongolian Yurt.
Our yurt on the beach at night. Photo credit: Mariko Jesse.

Inside our yurt. Photo credit: Mariko Jesse