Art History

Valley News – Art Notes: The White River Junction exhibit is print appropriate | Pro Club Bd

Published: 04/08/2022 03:32:13

Modified: 04/08/2022 03:33:38

Printmaking is a loose term for a variety of techniques that use a plate or other type of original to create multiple images. It has been used to spread stories and ideas for centuries: think medieval engraved manuscripts, etchings in books, political posters.

Norwich artist Sue Schiller keeps this legacy in mind when creating her own prints.

“I like figuring out communication and using different avenues of communication in my work,” she said in an interview. From musical composition to whale calls, different modes of communication are a theme that frequently appears in Schiller’s figurative and abstract prints.

A retrospective of Schiller’s work at Two Rivers Printmaking Studio in White River Junction allows viewers to see the evolution of her technique as well as the diverse themes she explored over the decades. The works will be hung along the corridor as well as inside the print studio.

One of the first images one encounters is a small woodcut, simply titled Self-Portrait from 1972, when Schiller was a self-confessed hippie. The young artist sits on a patterned sofa, head in hand. She looks tired, maybe from a marathon of making art.

The picture demonstrates Schiller’s superior draftsmanship and her skill as a printmaker. There is a surprising variety in the types of markings and lines used to delineate the various surfaces in the image: each is given a slightly different texture, from the grainy red wall to the billowing blouse to the tightly hatched skirt. The picture was taken while Schiller was a student at the National Academy of Art in New York, where she was taking classes from master printmaker Vijay Kumar.

Later in her career, Schiller was persuaded to do a series based on a study that found in some parts of the world that whale-to-whale communications were affected by the sonar used in military submarines. In addition to more traditional prints (one of which can be seen), the series includes Sonar vs. Sonar III (2011), a relief composed of a selection of printed papers formed into a three-dimensional collage that extends several inches from the wall.

Schiller writes about this technique in her artist statement: “I do it either by extreme embossing or by building up a kind of frieze – always entirely out of printed paper. This adds shadow elements and multiple viewing angles.” The concentric circles imply the dueling sets of sonar waves colliding beneath the ocean. The idea of ​​war machines disrupting the calls of the world’s largest mammals is strong.

Schiller’s work reached its most political dimension in family torn apart (2018), a family portrait torn into three parts depicting the separation of families of immigrants arrested trying to enter the United States. These events, compounded by isolation during lockdown, deepened Schiller’s affection for her own family and passed on an even deeper resonance to such works.

“When I look at this work, I think of my own family and how we can come together now … but also how difficult it is for others to be together,” she said.

A feeling of longing and separation resonates Forget (2009). In this Sugarlift print, four identical silhouettes of an androgynous human torso appear in a frieze-like row. Schiller used the “ghost” technique, in which the artist does not re-ink the plate between prints, causing each successive image to fade. In this case, the technique evokes a sense of fading memories as they unfold over time.

As a counterpoint to this Conversation II (2009) is an abstract representation of forms that seem to speak to each other. Between the two rock-like shapes are a series of bulbous shapes resembling speech bubbles. The work could be read as a simple meditation on sharing ideas, but on another level it seems to be a commentary on the act of making art itself.

“Sometimes I make a mark that then requires me to think the whole piece through,” says Schiller, waving girl with red hair (2017), a lively small figure study of a reclining woman. “I decided to give her red nails but ended up having to wear red somewhere else. … I had this yarn, which then became her hair.” The woman in the picture has a crimson mane of hair that reflects her nails and red patches throughout the picture. The piece is idiosyncratic in the best sense of the word. Playing on cubism, it features mixed layers of media over the printed image. The theme is a nod to the long tradition of the female figure as an object in Western art history.

Here and throughout the exhibition, Schiller uses her theme as an opportunity to improvise with materials and thereby find ease and joy in creating.

Sue Schiller: A Retrospective is on view at Two Rivers Printmaking Studio in White River Junction through August 22. As part of White River Junction’s First Friday celebrations, there will be a public reception on Friday from 5-7 p.m.

Gallery opening hours are Tuesday to Friday from 11am to 3pm or random or by appointment. For inquiries, call 802-295-5901 or email

Eric Sutphin is a freelance writer. He lives in Plainfield.

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