“Finding the Inherently Beautiful in Everything”
What do we obtain from the earth, and what do we make of it? Jen Craun tackles this quandary in a visually engaging way this January at Maria Neil. The question is two-fold due to not only the visual aesthetic she creates with her wood intaglio prints, but also to the processes which she undergoes to create them.
“The printed imagery explores the molecular and chemical makeup of these elements invisible to the eye, revealing similarities to the final state of refinement,” says Craun. “I enjoy that all things are makeable with a simple willingness to master ingredient and process.”
Simple and elegant gold leaf is overlaid images of mountains, sonography, and gem-like structures. The exhibition’s central theme of mining and exploration is a culmination of a years’ worth of effort and research. “I’m interested in notions of value, and how we examine and measure this ideal. Through the lens of the earth as the giver of these inherent gifts or treasures to be searched and found,” Jen explains. Continued information gathering is still occurring, but this is the goal Craun has wanted to achieve.
Below are some select questions we asked of Jen Craun regarding her work as a full-time artist and her work in the upcoming show:
Maria Neil Art Project: This past year has seen you fully immerse yourself as a full-time artist. How have you tracked your growth over the last calendar year?
Jen Craun: In the most practical way, I am writing copious amounts in my Passion Planner. I charted out my goals for the year, and continue to break them down at the beginning of each month inserting them into my monthly calendars and weekly to-do lists. At the close of each month, I reflect on what’s working and what needs changed, and how to reshape my present goals to fit into my long term goals. Carrying around this big leather journal/calendar combination has kept me sane, while also allowing me a platform from which to create. More rewardingly, I can track my growth by the robust body of work that I have created, many at a scale [read: large] that I’ve longed to return to. I keep a daily studio practice, and my mind is so focused on making. It’s terrifically rewarding.
Lastly, but equally important, through the sale of my work. After resigning from my post as Associate Director of Zygote Press a year ago May, I was committed to fill that income gap with art sales. It was a bit of a Field of Dreams personal challenge: “if you print it, they will come [and buy]”, but it’s proving to be true.
MNAP: Most of your work is printed at Zygote Press. They have recently transitioned to more “green” printing processes. How has this affected your work and your own processes?
JC: As a printmaker, I spend a ton of time working on my matrixes [the plates that will eventually make the prints] before I get to the press. Currently working in wood intaglio, I do this work in my home studio. Because I have always relied on my home studio space for much of my screen printing, drawing, and other aspects within my work, I naturally gravitated to greener processes there already. Going green at Zygote has been a breeze. Many of us within the community had already been headed in that direction for years, with cleaner solvents, etc. Zygote making the full-on plunge has been absolutely fantastic. The air quality has been the biggest and most noticeable benefit. I’m certainly excited to attempt the salt etch on some zinc for some small etchings soon, and to also see what wood lithography might offer my work as well. I love mastering more processes, so I look at is as an opportunity for more to incorporate into my work.
MNAP: Wood Intaglio printing is a new concept for me as a collector and enthusiast. For those that might not know what exactly this is, can you briefly explain the process?
JC: Wood intaglio is a fun hybrid of intaglio [traditionally an etched line or texture into metals such as copper or zinc] and a wood cut [which is typically printed in relief, or the top surface]. I enjoy using luan plywood because its grain is a very present mark. I create a range of marks on the wood plate by carving, wire-brushing and sanding away various areas. These create my lines, and tonal areas. I also use layers of polyurethane to seal the plates, and create smoother areas within my images that quiet the grain and collect less to no ink. To print the plates, basically I squeegee ink into every crevice of the plate, and then polish off the top surfaces with a cloth. I enjoy the physical labor of the plate creation and the printing so much. I’s quite a work out. After polishing the ink off of the top surfaces, I lay a wet cottony paper on top, and run it through the etching press. The pressure, and the blanketing of the press, forces the wet paper into the grooves of the plate, causing all of my marks, and much of the wood grain to be captured as the image on the paper. I love that the print shows what it’s made of: the inherent structure of the wood reads through into the final image.
Jen Craun – Inherent: January 8th – February 14th, 2016
Maria Neil Art Project
15813 Waterloo Rd
Cleveland, OH 44110
Wednesdays: 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Saturdays & Sundays: 12:00 to 5:00 pm
Other hours by appointment.