ed. 3, 19 x 13"
Lenten Rose, 1915
monoprint, ed. 3, 19 x 12"
New Life, 1916
carborundum etching, ed. 3, 15 x 14"
carborundum intaglio, 31 x 14"
carborundum intaglio, 31 x 14"
Ain't Gonna Fish no More, 2015
carborundum etching, ed. 3, 14 x 24"
Slave House, 2015
carborundum etching, ed. 3, 11 x 16"
About the artist Nina Muys
Nina Muys, a Silver Spring resident and native Austrian, has developed an innovative carborundum intaglio process, giving her non-toxic works a painterly, softly modulated look reminiscent of the aquatint. A quantiy of metallic carborundum dust is suspended in an acrylic medium that Muys applies to a matboard plate in a light to dark wash. This allows a subtle manipulation of the printing inks resulting in a luminescent glow of colors. Muys images – whether detailed examination of specific plants and flowers or expansive presentations of wood and lakes – are suffused with a feeling of atmosphere and light.
Nina Muys and the Interrogation of Beauty
Author's note: Anyone viewing Nina Muys' carborundum intaglios would do well to watch the video accompanying her work on this site. This instructive video both details Muys' innovative printmaking technique and provides a way for responding to Muys' work.
Flowers, says Nina Muys, are "fleeting…powerful, and...beautiful." And who could argue with her? If artistic attention is an indicator, then flowers are among our most favorite of subjects, compelling our attention across both culture and time. They are variously known as harbingers of spring, associated with renewal, fecundity, and life; masterworks of nature, able to persist, if not flourish, in any but the most extreme of climates; diviners of love, able to communicate secrets of the heart to lovers, both known and unknown; medicines, used for thousands of years as preventives and remedies; and symbols, used to convey all sorts of meaning and emotions, from love to joy, heartbreak to loss.
But above all, as Muys suggests, flowers are revered for their beauty and color. For these and many other reasons, flowers are so interwoven with our lives that they are deserving of special attention—as cohabitant life-forms, as accoutrement to human life, and for what they might tell us about flowers and ourselves, and how we see, differentiate, value, organize, and transact meaning.
Muys' interest in flowers suggests a visual response to the world. The flowers are beautiful, colorful, apart from the ordinary. The ordinary, we can assume, is synthetic, that is, comprised of everything in our field of perception. It is change in that field that attracts our attention, perhaps as a function of evolutionary biology, and leads to differentiation. Differentiation suggests analytical interest, and interest in color is one form of differentiation. In many of Muys' images, for example, Amarylis, Poppy, Dogwood, Maine Majesty, Foxglove Foxtrott, and Eggplant, we see the subjects of her work in ways that suggest interest in spatial organization. Most of the images are defined by quadrants and intersections between those quadrants. The quadrants suggest interests in balance, proportion, and symmetry, while the intersections suggest interests in both integration and causality. The use of color, especially in images like Foxglove Foxtrott, where tonal difference is nuanced, suggests both differentiation and integration in our field of vision.
The flowers themselves are depicted at the height of full bloom, suggesting interest in time (fleeting) and the human desire to stop it and preserve what is most beautiful, most memorable. The desire to capture what is most beautiful is indicative also of a hierarchical sensibility which organizes reality in ways which have probably psycho-sociological motivations. There is also the desire to manipulate what we see. In Maine Majesty, for example, the primary sunflower's head is a clever substitute for the sun, while the secondary sunflower works as sunlight reflected off the water.
Our desires to manipulate—even when we recognize those efforts involve sheer chance—are evident in Muys' innovative production of carborundum intaglios. In these works, color can be muted or intensified in attempts to replicate, contextualize, and/or enhance the subjects. In this regard, Muys' images can be understood as human-centric constructions motivated by a variety of impulses: personal, memorial, aesthetic, and psycho-social, all both conscious and unconscious. When they are expressed in printmaking, these impulses appear, ultimately, as socially constructed notions of reality. In Muys' work, these constructions include what is unique and personal to her, chance, and what we all share—our history and culture. As a result, what we come to understand as a flower is not so much an individual representation as it is an amalgam of representations.
For these and other reasons, when we view Muys' works, we experience both challenges and pleasures. The challenges involve discerning what the subject flower, artist, chance, and the artist's cultural context, including ourselves, bring to the image. These challenges, too, are pleasures, for they allow us to see flowers—even those we know really well—as we have never seen them before.
John A. Haslem, Jr.
Nina Muys born in Austria, raised in Brazil and Munich Germany, immigrated to U.S. in 1961. She settled in Maryland, married and has two sons. She is the Co-founder of the Washington Printmakers Gallery in 1984.
It was in Rome that Muys found her affection for printmaking. Under the guidance of Professor Barriviera, who introduced her to etching, she discovered how exiting and gratifying the medium can be. The fact that etching combined line and elements of surface manipulation truly intrigued her. After returning to America she focused fully on printmaking.
Intaglio has been Muys' principle form of expression however, due to health concerns, she has focused on producing prints that use non-toxic materials. She invented a method that uses acrylic and carborundum to imitate all the qualities of an etching without its dangerous substances such as acid and solvents.
Nine Muys has a deep and spiritual connection to nature. Her botanical prints express her views that flowers are miracles. The serene landscapes of her second home on Maryland's Eastern Shore offer her another perspective in which to view and appreciate the natural world.
Many of her works evoke the spirit of Albrecht Duerer who was interested in the inner life of plants, even the humblest in design. What goes on below the surface, such as the mystery of the flowering bulb interests Muys.
born 1945 Vorderstoder, Upper Austriaeducation
public collections1969 University of Maryland, College Park BA1967-68 Academy of Fine Arts, Rome, Italy1963-64 Corcoran School of Art, Washington DC
Library of Congress, Washington DCMuseum of Modern Art, Buenos Aires, ArgentinaNational Institute of HealthNational Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DCPierpont Morgan Library, New YorkUniversity of Maryland, College ParkWhite House, Washington DC
The Washington Post
March 21, 2014
by Mark Jenkins
Among the mysteries of printmaking is the way hard-surfaced plates yield soft textures. Nina Muys's intaglio prints of fruits, flowers and nature scenes, shown in "New Life" at Washington Printmakers Gallery, boast delicate and fluid hues that resemble those of aquatints or watercolors. This results from a process she developed, in which the image is incised not into metal but Plexiglas. To demonstrate the stylistic link, she's showing some prints next to watercolor-embellished drawings of the same vista.
Muys is an Austrian-born artist who teaches at a Montgomery County elementary school — some of her students' work is also on display — and was inspired by the recent birth of a granddaughter. Rather than baby pictures, she has made prints of nested eggs, budding blooms and other harbingers of spring, all in vernal colors. The subjects are simple, and presented in elementary compositions. But the colors are rich and moist, as if from a brush rather than a plastic matrix.