Stamping Grounds Still Meadow, 2016
digital on rag paper w/hand stitching
12 x 12"
Mesa del Norte, 2016
digital print on rag paper with hand stitching
12 x 12"
digital print on rag paper w/ hand stitching
18 x 13"
Ariadne's Crown, 2013
digital on rag paper, ed. 25
13 1/4 x 23"
Corona Borealis, 2013
digital on rag paper, ed. 25
13 1/4 x 23"
Fallen Blossom, 2014
2 piece digital on rag,, hand sewn
22 x 13 1/2"
Sampler: November 6, 2016
5 piece digital print on rag paper
hand stiched together
image 24 x 30"
My prints combine layers of imagery and meaning; original drawings, lithographs, and photographs are joined with symbols and graphic elements to create visually compelling and complex compositions that push at the edges of what is possible with digital media and seek to redefine old processes. While some of my prints are solo images, others are assemblages of many. Print groups are either placed side-by-side to form a grid, or a linear arrangement or they are hand-sewn together to make a single larger image. Each individual print within these series is an aggregate of traditional drawings, prints, and photographs with digitally rendered images and symbols resulting in something entirely new from their patterns, colors, and textures.
Themes, ideas, and subjects for my art are drawn from personal experience, with my surroundings supplying imagery and my graphic work analyzing both word and image introducing additional forms, symbols, and references. Different locations have influenced and informed the content of my prints and drawings from the underground landscapes of New York’s subways to open-air markets under the southern skies of Italy. The simple objects found at home in Virginia, from seashells to leaves and from numbers to letters, now provide the starting point for many prints. The familiar is intertwined with other imagery and references to create prints meant to initially engage the viewer through immediate object associations while visually alluding to more complicated ideas or concepts.
The process of interweaving imagery from traditional and new artistic processes through multiple digital layers to create a final merged image that comments on our world through whimsy, political commentary, or both, is sometimes a long narrative journey or story. It is my hope that the final images composed of many elements - whether old or new, detailed or abstract, anecdotal or scientific - will engage viewers to find their own narratives or reactions to the shared images and experiences, whether true or fictitious.
- Anne Chesnut
Anne Chesnut: A Printmaker for the 21st Century
By Jenny Freestone
From On Paper Journal of the Washington Print Club, Fall 2017
Dwindling: Prime Hook Shore Birds II, 2014
Digital print on rag paper with hand-stitching, 12 x 12"
Courtesy of Anne Chesnut.
The work of Anne Chesnut (born1954), used to be exhibited regularly at the Jane Haslem Gallery in Washington, DC. That venerable and much- loved gallery closed in 2015, when Haslem decided that after nearly fifty- five years in the gallery business, retirement was her due at age eighty. One of the many downsides to the gallery's closure is that Chesnut's work is now rarely seen in DC. She works in her studio on the rural outskirts of Charlottesville, Virginia, and her work is represented by Les Yeux du Monde Gallery, also in Charlottesville. Chesnut continues to exhibit widely, notably in Virginia, and her work is in the collections of many corporate and acadeic institutions.
Chesnut's career is that of a highly regarded graphic designer and a fine artist. A quick glance at her work above, with its mix of typographic symbols and drawn and photographed imagery, allows one to see how her work as a graphic artist shapes her work as a fine artist. Chesnut keeps the graphic and artistic strands of her work separate, but finds it easy to move seamlessly between them. In an interview with Lyn Bolen Warren in 2013, Chesnut talked about the distinction between her work as a graphic designer and as an artist thus:
One feeds the body, the other nourishes the soul. Fortunately, both speak the same language....There have been two streams in design, one out of fine arts and one out of the commercial world, just as there has been with photography where these two are more widely recognized. My training was strictly in the fine arts context, which is far less common now.1
Chesnut studied at Dickinson College (fine arts and art history), and earned her MFA at Yale University School of Art in 1981, where she also studied intaglio printmaking with Gabor Peterdi. Finding herself in New York and without a painting studio shortly after graduation, Chesnut joined Robert Blackburn's Printmaking Work- shop. Drawing, her "first artistic love," led her to study lithograph at the workshop.2 From 1985 to 1992 Chesnut worked closely with Robert Black- burn, drawing and printing lithographic plates, and enjoying the exchange of ideas within the community of printmakers. During three years in Italy, Chesnut returned to New York periodically to continue working with Blackburn.
Due to her work as a graphic designer, Chesnut has had the fortune to work at the forefront of digital technology, and she increasingly came to see how this could inform her work as an artist. She said in an interview:
Using the computer and digital printing as tools is within the printmaking tradition of adopting equipment like lithography, originally developed for commercial applications. Already immersed in the exploration and exploitation of electronic technology as I was, this was just a logical extension of these devices for me.3
Jesse Tree: Weeks 1-4, 2012
4 piece digital print on rag paper, hand sewn together, 48 x 27"
Courtesy of Anne Chesnut.
However, it was not until the development of archival inks and the ability to use heavy rag papers in the printing process that Chesnut fully embraced digital printmaking. In October 2013, Jane Haslem mounted the exhibition "A Question in Printmaking: Digital vs. Digital," which showed the work of Chesnut and Peter Milton. Chesnut had been working digitally for some time; Milton had relatively recently moved from decades of working in traditional etching and engraving to images created entirely on the computer screen. After the opening, Haslem hosted a public discussion with the artists. Even then, some sectors of the art world, including galleries, practicing printmakers, and critics felt that digital art was, in some way, a less valid art form than traditional printmaking. The first artists working digitally were con- strained in their choice of inks, which were not fully permanent, and paper, which was lightweight and un-archival, because of the limitations of printers at that time. Developments in digital technology had substantially changed this landscape by 2013 yet doubts still lingered, as this public discussion showed.4 Chesnut argued that digital printmaking was not about the technique that was lost; rather, it was about how much more could be achieved by exploring, exploiting, and working with this new medium.
Chesnut creates remarkably complex digital prints. Her work often takes the form of a single square or a rectangular grid of images. Each print comprises selections from a treasure trove of imagery Chesnut continues to generate, including drawings, traditional prints (lithographs, monotypes, and collographs), paintings, photographs, digitally created imagery, along with found objects, typographic and numeric forms, scientific symbols, and graphic images. Chesnut selects and researches the images she needs for a desired print, and these are digitally layered and inter- woven so the images seem to materialize, recede, or merge, energizing the square space in which they are con- fined. Chesnut also sews into her prints—an act she calls "putting the hand back in." This stitching is sometimes a practical way to make works that would otherwise be too large to be printed, and sometimes is a formal means of dividing a print into a grid. The sewing is also symbolic of bringing/stitching together the imagery within the print, and of applying herself directly and physically to her work.
Patchwork Union, 2006-07
five piece digital print on rag paper, hand sewn together, 58 x 36"
Courtesy of Anne Chesnut.
Of the subject matter of her prints, Chesnut related:
Themes, ideas, and subjects for my art are drawn from personal experience, with my surroundings supplying imagery and my graphic work analyzing both work and image introducing additional forms, symbols, and references. Different locations have influenced and informed the content of my prints and drawings from the underground landscapes of New York's subway to open-air markets under the southern skies of Italy. The simple objects found at home in Virginia, from seashells to leaves and from numbers to letters, now provide the starting point for many prints. The familiar is intertwined with other imagery and references to create prints meant to initially engage the viewer through immediate object associations while visually alluding to more complicated ideas or concepts….The process of interweaving imagery from traditional and new artistic processes through multiple digital layers to create a final merged image that comments on our world through whimsy, political commentary, or both, is sometimes a long narrative journey or story. It is my hope that the final images composed of many elements—whether old or new, details or abstract, anecdotal or scientific—will engage viewers to find their own narratives or reactions to the shared images and experiences, whether true or fictitious.5
Chesnut's prints tend to be produced in series, which can be as small as three prints and as large as sixty or more, all printed on heavy rag paper. She works prolifically, and produces prints that comment on a wide spectrum of contemporary life, including politics, the impact of historical events, the environment, and her sense of place.
A brief description of her series, and a selection of prints from each series, will give a sense of the breadth of her subject matter, from the macro of astronomy to the micro of her garden.
print on rag paper, hand sewn together, 12 x 9"
Courtesy of Anne Chesnut.
This series began in1999 with a complex set of prints centered on the subject of the labyrinth. Two series of a dozen prints, titled Labyrinth Study: La Sinistra (1991-2001) and Labyrinth Study: La Destra (2004-2005), offer exquisitely intricate explorations of Greek myth, which Chesnut compares and contrasts with the labyrinthine complexities of science, math, and music. To tell another story, in 2001 Chesnut produced a set of nine prints commenting on the events of 9/11, called 9.11 Moebius, in which she used the notion of the moebius strip to explore the complexities of that event.6 Chesnut also explores religious art. Illustrated here is Jesse Tree: Weeks 1-4 (2012), a four-piece print, the final version of which is sewn together to form one work that measures four feet by over two feet. This print draws from the old Christian tradition of telling Bible stories from the Creation to the birth of Christ during Advent. The title refers to the father of King David and the passage in Isaiah 11:1-4: "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots."
The imagery is complex, layered, and highly symbolic. The first panel alone represents all of the events of the first week as told in Genesis. Alongside the sun and stars, the creation of Adam and Eve is represented through the male and female symbols, the apple and the snake. Water droplets and the dove allude to the Flood, text refers to the Tower of Babel, a sword and wood symbolize Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac, and, finally, a ladder along the right side represents Jacob's ladder.
The second panel is equally intricate. Jacob is represented by his ladder, Joseph by striped cloth and wheat, and Moses by the basket and reeds of his infancy and fire connected to the burning bush. A lamb refers to Passover and Exodus, a clay table to the Ten Commandments, the ram's horn trumpet to the Fall of Jericho, crimson cloth and a shepherd's staff to Jesse, the six-pointed star for David, and scales of justice for Solomon.
The six-pointed star and scale also appear in both the second and third panels. To continue with the imagery in the third panel, the priests Elijah and Beal are represented by water and fire, a wise and just king by a crown, exile by stalks of grain and fruit, and a fish motif symbolizes Jonah. Finally, in the fourth panel, Mary and the angel Gabriel are represented by lilies and a crown of stars, her husband Joseph by a carpentry tool, their journey into Bethlehem by a scroll, John the Baptist by water and a shell, and Christ by a globe, candle, and the Greek chi-rho symbol.
Dick Sings, 2016
print on rag paper with hand stitching, 12 x 12"
Courtesy of Anne Chesnut.
Chesnut started her series of "Commentary Quilts" in 2004. The subjects of these prints directly respond to social and political issues within the United States. These large prints are made up of smaller works stitched together to form the whole. Just as a quilter works with a collection of selected fabrics, Chesnut selected imagery from history and contemporary society to build each individual quilt. Notable among these are Patchwork Union from 2006-2007, which is illustrated here, and its companion piece, From Many Threads of 2013. Both prints are made up of five sections sewn together to create works almost six feet tall by three feet wide. Each piece is printed in red, white, and blue with black text. Using text and portraits, Patchwork Union examines aspects of voting enfranchisement and disenfranchisement from 1775 through 2002 in the United States, and how historical events have framed more and less inclusive periods of voting. From Many Threads takes a similar historical overview of immigration, with a chronological list of times of opportunity and times of exclusion linked to the laws and policies that drove those decisions. Text is printed over a large image of the Statue of Liberty.
As the word "scripts" implies, these prints delve into the world of typography. Chesnut explores letters of the alphabet and numerals in tandem with imagery she associates with the given letter or number. This series began in 2007 with her Abecedarium, a set of six 12" x 9" prints focused on the letters A, B, C, X, Y, and Z. Other series have looked at words combined with the notion of play and toys. A recently completed series, A to Zee from 2015, a set of 26 prints (each 12" x 9")—one for each letter of the alphabet—is part of a commission by the University of Virginia's Children's Hospital. A is illustrated here. A lot can be discovered in this small print. The letter "A" is printed in different typographical forms, including Braille, binary code, and unicode. There are A symbols, as in school grades, blood groups, musical notes and piano keys, and a geometric angle, along with images of the ace of hearts, an acorn, and a map of Albemarle County, Virginia. Every print is equally dense.
Chesnut's "Samplers," which she began in 2008, are more lyrical and personal, and they take a fresh look at a traditionally female craft. The artist blends "evocative scraps" of the world around her by interweaving typography and nature with her own drawn and painted work.7 Prints from this series are often seated in a moment in time. For example, Sampler November 6 (illustrated on the back cover) takes its date from a passport stamp for the Cayman Islands situated over the letter L at the center of the five-piece print. From this lead, we explore this richly colored imagery of the flora and fauna of the islands. Intertwined with Chesnut's photographs are studies of the letters of the alphabet, and underlying all, ghostly images of currency—reminders of the status of the islands as a remnant of British imperialism. The five pieces were stitched together, with additional stitching to delineate areas within the print.
Car Caroli from the series "Canes Venatici", 2013
two-piece print on rag paper hand-sewn together, 21 1/2 x 19 1/4"
Courtesy of Anne Chesnut.
Dog Stars and Constellations
In this series of "Constellation" prints, Chesnut whimsically links specific star patterns with the animals or imagery the constellation names suggest. The two-piece Car Caroli (2013), shown here, is from the series "Canes Venatici." Car Caroli is a star in the constellation Canes Venatici (hunting dogs), and in this print Chesnut placed a double portrait of her Vizsla dog interwoven with the constellation and its surrounding stars.
Place Based Series
Begun in 2013, these prints are a more recent development in Chesnut's oeuvre, and are perhaps the most lyrical works she has produced. They tend to be single prints, their imagery fixed in a particular geographical location. The prints retain an echo of the grid pattern of the "Samplers," but these are chromatically lighter, and they contain a sense of space, open air, landscape. Some have stitching as a formal element. Their subject matter is personal to Chesnut and covers such notions as memory, history, and environment. On the front cover is Dwindling: Prime Hook Shore Birds II from 2014. Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Milton, DE is a sanctuary for migratory birds. The print focuses on the fauna of this place, with a drawing of a piping plover, a bird known as a red knot, and a silhouette of the American oystercatcher along with photographs of their tracks. At the bottom left, a digitally manipulated drawing of a horseshoe crab extends into a photograph of pebbles in sand. Underpinning the whole, and giving the print its place, is a map of Prime Hook.
In Dick Sings from 2016, Chesnut layered a pen and ink sketch of a mockingbird perched on a photograph of a mockingbird's egg. The print is also made up of three more drawings of mockingbirds and two images of a dog's paw print. Chesnut was inspired by a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Southwest Mountains (home of Monticello) seen across a neighborhood meadow—represented by a map in the print—while walking her dog. Musical notation for the first couple of lines of "Hush Little Baby" are combined with a computer manipulated rendering of the diamond ring of the song. A second line drawing of a diamond floats nearby, its lower tip pointing to the location of Monticello. In fact, the title of the print is inspired by the name of Thomas Jefferson's pet mockingbird, Dick. The color in the print is led by the pale aquamarine and brown speckles of the bird's egg and harmonizes these discrete yet associated images.
In its visual richness, Chesnut's work invites the viewer to explore and ponder the symbolism of her prints. All of her imagery is drawn from the world around her, with additional forms pulled from her work as a graphic artist and her own exploration of scientific iconography. According to Chesnut,
For me art is not about self-discovery and it is not about just making art. Rather, it is a means to critically examine aspects of the work, nature, or ideas through visual observation, exploration, discernment, scrutiny, or analysis.8
JENNY FREESTONE On Paper Art Editor and WPC Board member Jenny Freestone is a printmaker.
Sampler November 6, 2016
five-piece print on rag paper, hand-sewn together, 24 x 30"
Courtesy of Anne Chesnut.
Illustrated in color on rear cover.
Anne Chesnut art.i.facts
The following conversation took place in the winter of 2013 between artist Anne Chesnut and art history PhD Lyn Bolen Warren, whose gallery, Les Yeux duMonde, has exhibited Chesnut's work since 1999.
I remember encountering your prints of the subway and buses when I first met you in 1995 and being very impressed. I've since admired your work as it has changed and grown over the years. The only constant it seems is its medium. What first drew you to printmaking?
A love for drawing and a lack of a studio space…
Ironically, it was the expansion of back office computer space in lower Manhattan that forced me out of a painting loft and led me to a printmaking studio, and now the electronic descendants of those machines are not just part of printmaking workshops but how I work.
Drawing, my first artistic love, remains at the core of what guides and informs my art and led me to try lithography. Explorations and honing of skills in lithography, relief, and intaglio methods started me on my appreciation for each medium's unique characteristics. The joining of these traditional techniques with new electronic ones that blur the definitions of the artistic disciplines is of particular interest to me. Not as a new way for multiple printing or image making but for the fertile ground the new media offers to visualization—an opportunity to explore and exploit properties not previously possible.
You completed your MFA at Yale. Was printmaking your focus?
My formal education included the study of intaglio methods with Gabor Peterdi and freer monoprint explorations for Bernie Chaet's drawing class, but my focus on printmaking came after Yale. While I was living in New York, Robert Blackburn's Printmaking Workshop became my incubator. After participating in a lithography class, I subsequently spent every Wednesday night printing at the workshop for many years till I moved to Italy. Bob fostered a diverse community of printmakers through unfettered access to equipment that encouraged both innovation and the exchange of ideas.
Speaking of equipment, the advent of the computer has transformed so much in art. How would you describe your use of the new technologies? When did you start making digital prints?
Using the computer and digital printing as tools fits within the printmaking tradition of adopting equipment like lithography, originally developed for commercial applications. Already immersed in the exploration and exploitation of electronic technology as I was, this was just a logical extension of these devices for me.
Working as a designer, I was involved with the first generation of the new technology as it emerged—initially as a means for typesetting, then for direct color applications and separations, and finally for design and layout. Consequently, my approach towards these tools has always been one of "what else is possible" rather than viewing them as the means for accomplishing specific assigned tasks. However, it was not till the development of digital printing applications that employed archival liquid inks and accommodated heavy rag papers that I began to borrow and embrace these tools for printmaking.
You are definitely a pioneer in the still young discipline of digital printmaking. The way you combine traditional techniques with new ones in your prints to me also comments on the evolution of the medium. Can you describe your particular process?
Combining traditional and digital means, my recent prints meld layers of meaning and imagery. These composites incorporate my lithographs, drawings, paintings, and photographs with found objects and digitally created imagery. All are further manipulated before being united. While the development and evolution of how to fuse these images has been an independent journey for me the response has been supportive, especially from you and Jane Haslem. And also, Dean Dass, who included me in international print exchanges.
A simple example of blended images is the early print series Tree of Life, which intertwines casein paintings of leaves with photographs, ink drawings, and digitally drawn symbols.
Can you talk about your imagery and subject matter?
My surroundings have always informed my work. For many years, the frieze-like groupings of separate, unengaged figures on the overcrowded buses and subway platforms of New York City retained my interest in drawings, paintings, and finally in lithographs and monoprints. These cityscapes were replaced by the outdoor urban life of Southern Italy as I became immersed in a new place. The drainage ditch mussel gatherers, the African workers, and finally the open-air markets with their extreme contrasts between new and traditional commodities for sale in ancient settings were the subject of many prints and drawings.
Initially, on returning to Virginia the familiar locales seemed bland. Gradually, I found inspiration in my backyard and the ordinary; a discarded seashell, a worn garden tool, or a single number became the opportunity to examine them in a larger context. While the familiar populates current prints, the images are not an object record or a slice of daily life; rather they are about what things symbolize, or the creation of a whimsical new reality.
I am struck by the recurrence of various "tools" in your art, be they your Garden Tools, Utensils, or as you say, a single number, and the way you bring myriad associations to something we would ordinarily take for granted. Tell us about the letters and numbers.
Raised by a father who was a linguist and mathematician, I developed an avid interest in typography or language's form.
Abecedarium, a letter study, examines references associated with each character. [Y] Yankee's imagery not only includes the x-and y-axes, a signal flag, letter proportions and formation but also a y-chromosome, and in X-ray [X] the associations are tic-tac-toe, xxx, and an x-ray.
Scientific references and their relationship to numbers can be found throughout the six-part series Numerals/numbers—from 2, also the notation for Helium, to 4's depiction of many things found in fours, such as; heart chambers, blood groups, ink colors, directions, and quadrants.
I have always marveled at the way you have been able to work simultaneously as both a successful graphic designer and a serious artist and wondered how you view the relationship between the two?
One feeds the body, the other nourishes the soul. Fortunately, both speak the same language.
There have been two streams in design, one out of fine arts and one out of the commercial world, just as there has been with photography where these two are more widely recognized. My training was strictly in the fine arts context, which is far less common now.
Probably why so many museums and galleries seek you out for their graphic design.
On the frontline of technology, you made art of emoticons before I knew what they were! Your emoticons are wonderful comments on the symbols that have invaded our lives with the advent of computers, cell phones, and texting. I love the way you combine high and low art and humor in Heaven Scent, layering the emoticon with the rose window from a Medieval church. And in Winter Blackwork, you combine "real" ivy with the stitched or symbolic image and drawings too.
Just like emoticon prints are drawn from our everyday world; the samplers are a modern take on "women's work." They are evocative scraps of my life akin to crazy quilt patches recycled from old dresses and shirts. The ivy on the battered, white-washed wall in Winter Blackwork is from the yard of my childhood home, and the drawings, from a long-forgotten sketchbook. Sampler, April 17 is a spring sampling from my yard.
Speaking of the Samplers, I notice knitting and a spool of thread (Ariadne's?) represented in certain prints in your Labyrinth series and then actual stitching in the Samplers and Quilts. When did you first start using stitching and why?
The use of stitching came about for two reasons. It is an integral part of the quilt prints, just as their names are puns on their subjects. And stitching was a way around printer size restrictions; in the Quilt, Sampler, and Dog Star series from two to sixty-three prints are sewn together.
The Quilts are amazing. Tell us about Patchwork Union and American Piecework.
American Piecework, a play on "peace", can be seen as a "state of the union" print. Its sixty-three squares forming the American flag were done in response to national issues early into this decade of war and conflict.
Patchwork Union, evoking a quilt with its stars and bars and five hand-sewn panels, examines the story of American enfranchisement and disenfranchisement. Frequently, we seem to discuss the world in the context of what we know now; for example, few are aware that non-citizen voting was common in the first 150 years of US history. And, we think of the vote becoming more and more inclusive; yet after each extension, often occurring out of turmoil, there has been a period of retrenchment where access is reduced.
The stitching also reminds me that, even if the prints are created on the computer, the hand, specifically your hand (and mind and sensibility), is still actually making the work.
For me prints are tactile, made on wonderful paper. They are not just things to be hung but are works that can be handled. The addition of sewing just broadens that physical aspect.
When I first encountered your extraordinary Labyrinth series, I was amazed at the intricacies in each print, and yet, all twelve prints in each series fit together, and the meditation of each one parallels the movement through a real labyrinth. Can you tell me about these?
The two labyrinth series explore not just the Greek myth but also areas of knowledge like science, math, and music whose notation may seem a maze to the uninitiated.
In Labyrinth: La Sinistra a unicursal, or single pathway, maze connects the three by four grid of twelve prints. The individual prints explore different ideas. 1.1 (row 1, print 1) recalls being lost or hidden during cornfield games of hide and seek under an endless Texas sky of stars. 1.4 (row 1, print 4) examines man's view of man, juxtaposing Leonardo's ideal on a field of human DNA strands and engineered wheat. In 3.1 (row 3, print 1) the bird skulls and feather reference Icarus, the son of Daedalus, who built the labyrinth for King Minos. But it is also about the modern mega city; the field is a bird's eye view of population density, notated by circles, where the voids forming two rivers and a rectangular central park reveal the location.
A multicursal maze runs through the other series, La Destra, and individual prints again reference mythology and notation devices. The mythic Minotaur is brought together with the contemporary image of life in gestation, a sonogram, and a jigsaw puzzle diagram in 1:4.
In between other subjects, animals reoccur; this affinity is perhaps a childhood legacy from working in a sculptor's studio—she expected me to learn to draw in detail the skeleton of an animal before sculpting it in clay.
So the skull of the hummingbird in one of the Labyrinth prints is one of your own drawings! Again you combine tradition with innovation—traditional drawing with drawing on the computer.
I also love the way you simultaneously suggest the macrocosm and the microcosm in these prints by representing the outermost stars alongside a single thumbprint or binary code for example. Similarly in your Constellation prints you link a distant constellation with your own home and dogs.
The series of dog star prints are about my two dead dogs and living dog. The Canis Major series is Henry, a macho male "Neapolitan Pointer," or in other words a very proud mutt. He was Marine-trained in Italy and became quite mellow with a "green card" to Charlottesville. The imagery through maps, emblems, and dog tags makes references to his European and American lives. Louisa, an oversized yet beta female Weimaraner, is the subject of the Canis Minor series. Along the bottom of these prints are magenta outline drawings representing her two Charlottesville homes in the style of mid-twentieth-century black and white star guides. The hunting dog series, Canes Venaciti, is of Ginny, a Vizsla, who as a lean, mean, running machine can easily represent two dogs. The image associations in these prints are to her and to the star stories of this very dim constellation.
Tell me about the Shoo Fly and Southern Fly in this series.
The subject of Southern Fly is one of the modern group of eighty-eight constellations. The image on the left has several constellation representations not adopted by the IAU [International Astronomical Union] to map the modern sky, so I called it Shoo Fly.
Can you tell me about the All That Remains: Bolivar? And why did you arrange them in this shape?
The placement is from the shape of the narrow peninsula separating the Galveston Bay from the Gulf of Mexico. The divisions into individual prints are based on the quadrants used for geological survey maps.
The prints were made as a result of my driving a road not taken in many years. In 2008, the Bolivar Peninsula, on an average just three feet above sea level, was scoured by Hurricane Ike's fifteen to twenty-foot storm surge, which put most areas under five to ten-feet of water and knocked down almost all the buildings. The land is now a mix of fragments and new buildings, and these prints are in response to three visits in 2011 and 2012.
There is so much in your work to discover! You seamlessly merge tradition and innovation, symbols, concepts, ideas, and suggestions to create an endless visual and conceptual feast for the viewer.
The process of interweaving imagery out of traditional and new artistic processes through multiple digital layers to create a final merged image that comments on our world through whimsy, political commentary, or both is sometimes a long narrative journey or story. It is my hope that the final images composed of many elements, whether old or new, detailed or abstract, anecdotal or scientific, familiar or unknown, will engage the viewers, to find their own narrative or reaction to the shared images and experiences, whether true or fictitious.
And indeed the final images do just that! Thank you Anne for your work and your words!
My early experiences in DC and Arlington taught me to explore public spaces, making them not just familiar but personal, to create images about my surroundings and appropriate found materials for use in my art. These lessons did not occur inside a school building but in the community and created a foundation that led me to my formal study of art in college and later to an MFA from the Yale School of Art.
My Saturdays, in elementary school, were spent drawing in the Corcoran’s Saturday School’s classrooms, located adjacent to the exhibitions, or, in the bowels of the gallery’s basement, working with clay. Sitting astride the bronze lions, flanking the entrance, awaiting a ride home from Saturday School, however, remains my most vivid memory of those classes. Saturdays, during the next six years, were spent in Georgetown at an alley stable turned artist’s studio, sculpting and learning to draw the anatomy of multiple animals—the National Zoo served as my first "life drawing" classroom.
The museums of old DC—The Phillips, National Gallery sans the East Wing, Dumbarton Oaks’ Pre-Columbian Collection—were the playground of my childhood. The National Gallery was the destination of my very first field trip. A year or so later, I waited in my first long line to see an exhibition—the Mona Lisa. My remarkable sixth grade teacher took our class, not just to The Phillips and many other museums, but also to commercial galleries to see the work of contemporary artists, even paintings by the Washington Color School. Other public spaces, including, long before I ever saw a Clyfford Still, Augustus Vincent Tack’s fire curtain for GW’s Lisner Auditorium, also captured my attention. When I learned to drive, I discovered American University’s open stack library with its extensive collection on art and spent many hours reading there. As I grew up, so did DC’s art world, transformed by additions like the Hirshhorn and the East Wing. A summer job included filing and reading exhibition announcements and catalogues sent by the Library of Congress to the old Patent Office building (then home for the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery’s library).
While DC’s environs were the basis for my early exposure and education in the arts, I came programmed to respond to the elements and language of art. In family lore, my earliest words were the color names, and not just the basics—blue and green—but the nuanced names—cerulean and chartreuse. There is no time I remember when I was not making things—using whatever materials I could appropriate. The New Yorker’s old brown paper wrappers were an early source of oversized sheets for watercolors. Virginia clay was dug, pinched, and then fired in a backyard bonfire long before I learned more formally about clay at the Corcoran’s Saturday School.
As an adult I have lived in many states and in Italy. In each of these places, as well as on travels, the flora, fauna, and people have influenced my subject matter and how I make art. But, the approach to each new location has been informed by the system first learned in DC—I draw what surrounds me, I explore public spaces and make them not just familiar but personal, and I continue to appropriate found materials.
born 1954 Washington, DCeducation
post graduate studies1981 Yale University, School of Art, MFA1976 Dickinson College, AB cum laude, fine arts and art history
public collections1985-92 Robert Blackburn's Printmaking Workshop, NYC1985-92 workshop member, 1985 lithograph study1987-88 National Academy of Design School, NYC1981-82 The Studio School
Bradbury Gallery, Arkansas State University, JonesboroCapital One, (headquarter building), Richmond, VAChurch of Our Savior Episcopal Church, Charlottesville, VAColby-Sawyer College, Susan Harp Collection, New London NHEmily Couric Clinical Cancer Center, University of Virginia Health System, CharlottesvilleEpiscopal Church Collection, Church of Our Saviour, Charlottesville VASmithsonian, New York NYThomas Jefferson Unitarian Church Collection, Labyrinth Collection, Charlottesville VAThe University of Virginia, School of Nursing, CharlottesvilleUniversity Hospital, UVA Health System, Charlottesville, VA (18 works of art)University of Virginia Children’s Hospital, Charlottesville, VA
BRADBURY GALLERY ANNOUNCES OPENING OF DELTA NATIONAL SMALL PRINTS EXHIBITION
Too Close to the Sun, 2013
etching, 6 x 6"
Sampler : Winter Blackwork II, 2013
digital print w/hand sewing
12 x 12"
JONESBOBO - The Bradbury Gallery at Arkansas State University will host the 2014 Delta National Small Prints Exhibit5ion with a public reception at 5 p.m. Thursday, January 30.
Founded in 1996 A-State professor of art Evan Lindquist and produced by the Bradbury Gallery, this exhibition has received great acclaim as it has grown to be one of the country's foremost annual competitions for prints.
"The Delta National's examination of contemporary, small printmaking annually informs the public of new mediums, new artists and new styles," according to Les Cristensen, director of Bradbury Gallery. "This year is no exception. Along with several well-known and frequent contributors, the 2014 exhibition is comprised of numerous outstanding printmakers who are exhibiting their work here for their first time."
Artists from across the country and around the world have the opportunity to enter the competition, with final selections made by a nationally known expert in the field of printmaking. This year's DNDPE was selected by Lyle Williams, the respected curator of prints and drawings at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio.
Williams's love for and understanding of print media are apparent in his choice of 55 works by 44 artists included in the show. Not only did he review all of the submissions for 2014, but he also decided which prints would receive awards.
"Williams is owed tremendous thanks for his dedication and conscientious examination of more than 600 entries," Christensen added.
All awards, including purchase prizes, will be announced at the opening reception. These purchase awards, funded by patrons of the DNSPE, become part of the Arkansas State University Permanent Collection of Art.
The exhibition, which continues through Feb. 28, and the reception are admission-free and open to the public. Bradbury Gallery is in Fowler Center, 201 Olympic Dr. For additional information interested individuals may visit www.bradburygallery.com or contact the Bradbury Gallery at (870) o72-3472
Anne Chesnut connects digital design and personal iconography
by Sarah Sargent
One's first impression of Anne Chesnut's exhibition "Art.i.facts" at Les Yeux du Monde gallery (through April 7) is of rich colors, bold images, and dramatic compositions. On closer inspection, one sees interesting juxtapositions of images and it becomes clear something deeper is happening here than just fetching artwork. Information is being conveyed on a particularly cerebral plane.
Chesnut, who received her MFA from Yale has supported her artistic career through her work as a highly-esteemed graphic designer and her images have a polished quality that owes much to design. While drawing "remains at the core of what guides and informs my art," she loves letters and numbers and switching back and forth between fonts, which confirms a lively cross-pollination between avocation and vocation.
Some of Chesnut's prints are stand-alone works; she also produces series that range in number from three to 63. These vary from the elegiac "What Remains: Bolivar," focusing on the destruction of Hurricane Ike to the Bolivar Peninsula in Texas, to the constellations (where her dogs, both living and dead, are immortalized), samplers, quilts and the "Summer Dressed" series. Within each print Chesnut combines disparate images taken from the wealth of drawings, photographs, and graphic elements she has produced over time. She uses animals and birds, constellations, seashells, flowers, and typography (with often autobiographical connotations) to create visually rich and enigmatic works that run the gamut from the microscopic to the astronomical.
"The sources of imagery and meaning for these prints are drawn from personal experience. My surroundings supply imagery, and my graphic work analyzing word and image, has introduced additional forms, symbols, and references." She also draws on a rich science-based iconography featuring botany, ornithology, entomology, genetics, and astronomy and adds dashes of whimsy and political commentaries into the mix.
Using both familiar and exotic, even arcane images, Chesnut connects them much like a poet connects words, playing with the symbolic and visual links between them, achieving a kind of symmetry that expresses an awareness of simultaneous dimensions. The images and their interplay have an immediate visual appeal while referencing other more intangible concepts. Chesnut starts with something simple like a number, or letter, and runs with it. For example, the number four leads to heart chambers, blood groups, the four points of the compass and ink colors. A rose is a photograph of a rose picked from her garden, but also an amusing Chesnut-designed emoticon and a Gothic rose window. Like Chinese boxes, her works keep opening up to reveal more and more. Gallery director Lyn Warren said, "It's very easy to enter Anne's prints from different points. You can come at them from the standpoint of subject, concept, or visually. The more you look, the more you see."
Chesnut uses both actual and faux stitching to divide up the surface. The hand-sewn approach has a practical side, enabling her to produce larger compositions, not possible given the limitations of printer size. But on a more symbolic level, she is stitching together not only the physical pieces, but also metaphorically she's stitching the different concepts together. In some works she achieves a quilt-like effect and she has a whole series of "Samplers" (a modern version of "women's work" according to Chesnut), which gives her ample opportunity to play with letters and numbers—key elements in traditional samplers.
The digital process allows Chesnut to merge traditional techniques with new artistic approaches. Working in the graphic design field Chesnut was conversant with emerging digital technology early on, and became interested in using it "to explore and exploit properties not previously available." From the beginning, she saw digital printing as a means to make new discoveries rather than as an expediter of tasks. Once archival liquid inks and paper could be used in digital printing, Chesnut embraced the medium wholeheartedly.
It's an equalizer of sorts giving the same visual weight, sense of texture and depth to, say a photograph as a drawing. Here, the end result is sleek and smooth. Chesnut says she's interested in creating works "that push at the edges of what is possible with new media and seek to redefine old processes. Each individual print is a digitally manipulated composite that mixes traditional media, my drawings, prints, and photos, with images and symbols I have rendered digitally to make something entirely new from the images, patterns, colors, and textures."
I must confess I was a little leery when I read "digital prints" while researching this show, but Chesnut won me over with her imaginative and innovative use of the medium. Her expertise with print technology enabled her to see its potential early on, and her strong artistic background means she uses it in a most creative manner, producing work that is visually satisfying and laden with significance. "It is my hope that the final images composed of many elements—whether old or new, detailed or abstract, anecdotal or scientific—will engage the viewer to find their own narrative or reaction to the shared images and experiences, whether true or fictitious."
Eyes of the world on Wolf Trap
by David McNair
exempted from The Hook
Charlottesville, VA 3.13
"Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life." - Pablo Picasso
Local artist Anne Chesnut, a master lithographer who now works with digital prints. Original drawings, lithographs, and photographs are all combined and digitally manipulated to create a kind of modern, digital-age art that also has an antique feel. The works, Chesnut says, "blur the definitions of the artistic disciplines."
"The simple objects in Heaven Scent [the image shown here] were found in my local surroundings," says Chesnut in an email. "The clouds were photographed from my yard where the rose was grown, and these are intertwined in the print with other imagery drawn from personal experience. The rose refers to the many seen while living in Europe, and the windows are an interest triggered in childhood by the National Cathedral's windows, while the emoticon– which provided the print's starting point– is drawn from a longstanding interest in characters and their forms."
Anne Chesnut. art.i.facts, introduction by Andrea Douglas, and interview by Lyn Bolen Warren, Les Yeux du Monde, Charlottesville, VA, 2013