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Printmaker speaks at UI

BY HANNA ROSMAN | FEBRUARY 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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For Sarah Smelser, art pieces with opposing values converse with each other.

And lecturers and their audiences should, too.

So while Smelser will be the focal point of a discussion at 7 p.m. today in 109 English-Philosophy Building, featuring a PowerPoint presentation of her work in printmaking — she hopes to have a dialogue with audience members who are encouraged to interrupt.

“Sometimes, the audience is very polite,” Smelser said, referring to those who revere her discussions as class lectures.

The 38-year-old creates her work based on the abstract with a mindset of artwork as a collection rather than a singular piece. Often, she will work on a print with the next one in mind. She has been known to work on as many as 12 pieces at a time.

“Three-quarters of my work is a family,” Smelser said. “I explore the same ideas [in my work], but in different ways.”

While she was studying at the University of California-Santa Cruz, a teacher took special interest in her and sparked the California native’s interest in printmaking. She then studied abroad in Italy, which not only cemented her relationship with printmaking as her medium of choice, it also instilled the notion that it takes a certain character to do well.

“Not everybody has the patience or temperament for printmaking,” Smelser said.

UI art Professor Robert Glasgow shows Smelser’s work in lithography and monoprint to his students. He thinks that the artist is a good model for those who wish to have a career as a printmaker because of her patient dedication to her art.

“She is a good example of a person whose work is slow and serial,” he said. “She creates unique, one-of-a-kind prints.”

Her work is exhibited across the United States and internationally. Her art can be seen in the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and Chase Manhattan Bank. Although these places are prominent in the world of art, Smelser does not think too much of it.

“Once a work is purchased, it is not mine anymore,” she said. “I try not to read into it too much.”

The artist is able to show her work in these places with the help of Kathryn Markel, a gallery owner in New York City. Markel is very active and energetic, helping Smelser get featured in many exhibitions.

Not only does Smelser work as a successful artist, but she also co-owns a printing press, Manneken Press. It produces etchings and prints from metal or woodcuts as well as monoprints, which are singularly printed items. Because the company and the artist work together in creating a print, it is at no cost to the artist. This results in he or she owning the rights to only half of the edition.

Smelser also worked abroad as a resident artist in Spain and Belgium. These opportunities for her have worked in more ways than one by giving her a widened perspective on life as well as creative flow for her work.

“It is something that opens up several doors to get the artistic juices flowing by being in new surroundings,” she said.


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