Bowdoin’s new printmaking studio hummed with artistic energy during a recent visit from printmaker Susan Groce, chair of the art department at the University of Maine and an acclaimed artist whose prints and drawings appear in collections and exhibitions all over the world. Groce took part in Bowdoin’s Spring 2014 Marvin Bileck Printmaking Project, which brings one distinguished printmaker to campus each semester for a week of student workshops, public lectures, and collaborative printmaking.
Sponsored by the Marvin Bileck and Emily Nelligan Trust, the semiannual project is a win for everyone who participates, said organizer and Assistant Professor of Art Carrie Scanga, Bowdoin’s resident printmaker. “The visiting artists get to work on their own professional pieces, and the students get to work side by side with them,” which gives students an opportunity to both pick up new skills and gain insight into the world of professional artists, Scanga said.
During this spring’s incarnation of the project, Groce made progress on her current artistic endeavor (a series of about 40 large photopolymer plates that will be tiled to create one immense work of art) in collaboration with pairs of students who assisted her in shifts, and offered a public lecture about her environmentally-focused artistic process and experiences, including her extensive research on developing safer print techniques. She also presented a multi-day workshop for students enrolled in Printmaking I, taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Becky Blosser this spring while Scanga is on parental leave. Blosser’s students worked with Groce to try out an array of techniques for making color prints, using their own copper plate etchings created earlier in the semester.
The hub of all of this printmaking activity was the Edwards Center for Art and Dance, which opened last fall to become the centralized home to the College’s visual arts and dance offerings. Bowdoin’s printmakers have moved into an airy new studio, leaving behind a much smaller facility in Burnett where artwork was constrained by space limitations. “It was elbow to elbow,” Scanga said. “Now there’s more room to spread out and the work itself can actually be bigger.”
“We’re also incredibly lucky in terms of getting this beautiful sunny room that’s becoming a community gathering space in the art building,” Scanga added, noting that “printmakers typically enjoy collaboration and working together in a space” as they share the tools, supplies, and large equipment necessary for their art. “The new studio has become kind of like a hive, of trading ideas and sharing techniques and helping each other along. I couldn’t be happier about that.”