Pioneering artist uses foil as art

BY TANNER KOOMAR | JUNE 11, 2009 7:26 AM

Some artists need only mundane objects to create a masterpiece. Kimberlee Rocca is one of them, and she uses foil.

Rocca, a local artist, uses a novel printmaking technique — foil imaging — that requires the same reflective and pigmented material used in credit cards, soda cans, and holographic images.

Rocca opened her image collection Life, Promise, Hope and Joy during the Iowa City Gallery Walk on June 5, and the series will be on display at the Chait Gallery, 218 E. Washington, through June 30.
Few practice — or have even heard of — foil imaging, and virtually any who use the method of printmaking have learned it at UI.

“We’ve had a few artists here who use it,” said gallery proprietor Benjamin Chait. “But they’re all from around here.”

Foil imaging was first developed at the UI in the early 1980s by Professor Virginia Meyers, who taught the technique to Rocca.

“[Meyers] was the kind of professor that felt she did a good job if you achieved more than she did,” Rocca said. “She was very inspiring.”

Meyers conceived a process that applies foil to a surface using heat and pressure. The seemingly simple process is can achieve a high degree of complexity because the foils can be layered. This layering often results in a new and different aesthetic. Artists using foil imaging must adapt these commercial products to their own creative ends.

Working in foil can also be a challenging process.

“It does have an inherent limitation,” the artist said. “But it’s very exciting to push the medium and do things you didn’t think it could do.”

When speaking about her introduction to foil imaging, Rocca admitted it was something she stumbled upon. By the end of her college career, she had taken all the summer workshops that interested her. Then the foil imagining seminar caught her attention.

“I saw the foil imaging workshop and went in to speak with Professor Meyers because I had no printmaking background,” she said.

Though she earned degrees in metal smithing, fiber arts, and graphic design, foil really captured her creativity and changed her approach. Soon after her return from abroad, she bought the prototype of the Iowa Foil Printer — the stamping device — which was not even in production at the time.
“I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said. “I love it.”

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