Visiting Printmaker Creates Prints for the Taking

Lisa Bulawsky

Lisa Bulawsky

Printmaker Lisa Bulawsky is known not just for her prints but also for her generous art installations.

One of her public projects — a “mobile exhibition” called Blindspot Galleries — involved her driving a Ford minivan that was stuck all over with handmade magnets. At stops, she encouraged people to snag a free magnet. “I think of the art I leave behind as a gifting,” she said at a recent talk at Bowdoin.

Bulawsky, an associate professor of art at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts in St. Louis, was this semester’s visiting printmaker for the Marvin Bileck Printmaking Project, sponsored by the Marvin Bileck and Emily Nelligan Trust. Each semester, Bowdoin invites a printmaker to campus for one week to produce prints with help from current printmaking students (watch a video of students working with the last spring’s visiting printmaker Susan Groce). The artist also gives a talk to the community.

In her campus talk, Bulawsky said she has boiled down the philosophy of printmaking into three parts: the matrix, the mark and the multiple. The matrix is the plate on which the print is born. The mark is its impression, a recording of history. The multiple represents the multiplicity of prints, the generosity and exchange of art that prints foster.

Bulawsky described several of her pieces, explaining their origin and the process of making them. One of her paper works, Flashbulb Memories, took the form of a mixed media series in which she overlapped her personal memories with current events, exploring “the relationship between personal and cultural versions of history.” On her website, she explains, “The images become personalized homages to some of the most significant and idiosyncratic moments of the last four decades, among them the shootings at Kent State in 1970 and the death of Elvis Presley in 1977.”

Bulawsky made another public installation, “We Belong to the Dead,” to also serve as a memorial of sorts. She first asked Facebook users to create and post a portrait of their favorite dead artist. After collecting portraits of Johnny Cash, Albrecht Durer, Dennis Hopper and many others, she printed 6,000 copies of each portrait and attached them to stakes that were stuck in the ground throughout Minneapolis. Like the magnets, she hoped passers-by would pull up the stakes to take a print home.

“One of the exciting, exhilarating things about doing unsanctioned art is that you don’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

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