Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Prolific Roy Nydorf--200 pieces, 4 decades

I can still recall the first time I ever walked into the printmaking studio at Guilford College.  Climbing the stairs to the second floor, entering the well-lit room, hardwoods creaking beneath my feet, and smelling the toxic solvents for the first time.  And I can vividly remember meeting my printmaking professor, Roy Nydorf, as if it were yesterday. 
He started out our freshman orientation by flipping through a portfolio of prints he had collected over the decades, briefly explaining how each print was created—dry point, mezzotint, aquatint, sugar lift—intermittently rubbing his beard, his fingers coated with turquoise. 
I remember his keen eye during critiques, his gloveless hands retrieving a plate in the acid bath, and the way he sparked my interest in a medium I knew nothing about and had never heard of prior to 1997.  That’s what great professors do.
I found the etching process fascinating and addictive.  I was eager to discover how crucial the timing of the acid was.  I was anxious to feel the rush of adrenaline when pulling a print for the first time after having cranked the press and felt the release of the plate, flipping back the blankets, lifting the corner of the print.  And I was as equally hooked on the meticulousness of the wiping of the plates—the seductiveness and methodical, circular motions.
It didn’t take me long to know that I wanted to concentrate in this medium and explore as much as I could under Roy.  I found myself asking him if I could have the honor of being his Teacher’s Assistant, which he said yes to my junior year.  He taught me so much.  So you can imagine my utter disappointment when he announced he was taking a sabbatical my senior year.  Tears were indeed shed.
Many years later, the Greenhill Gallery in Greensboro, NC, offered Roy a retrospective.  This included about 200 of his pieces and spanned over 40 years of creative, artistic exploration.  So when one of my closest girl friends and senior thesis graduates, Carol DeVries, asked me to meet her for lunch and a gallery tour, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.  Coincidentally, Roy’s wife, Terry Hammond, and two other Guilford alums were there, and we shared some laughs, great stories, and caught up.
It was only until I started walking the gallery that I realized what a phenomenal accomplishment my old professor had achieved.The entire gallery was dedicated to him and his work.  It was beautifully curated and a perfect chronology of the evolution of his work.  There were surreal paintings that were dreamlike in nature, with floating figures drifting lightless.  There was a series of ephemeral butterflies rendered in pastels that looked so real that, if you touched them, their delicate wings would crumble.  There were wooden carvings—one 10 feet in length and carved entirely from one piece of wood with painted, red lips—that were so mature and unexpected.  There were paintings—portraits and landscapes alike that detailed time in the Italian countryside and desolate North Carolina highways after a summer rain.  And then there were etchings I was so familiar with because I had personally seen Roy meticulously wiping the plates in the studio—The Black Cat and the a la poupee heads. 
I consider myself blessed to have been able to see this awe-inspiring show.  But I consider myself even more grateful for having had the opportunity to study under such a well-rounded, gifted talent who taught me so much about the printmaking medium and more about myself as an artist. 
Thank you, Roy, for being the artist, visionary, and mentor that you are.  You will never know how you impacted my life. 


Monday, May 14, 2012

Fun with Paper Dyeing

I recently became obsessed with dyeing paper.  So much that I began devoting many daily hours to the soothing tranquility the process offers me—my hands playing in the warm waters, the anticipation of what color the dye mixing will yield, and the calmness that takes over my body while watching the paper absorb the colors.  It has been good for me.  It’s made me slow down a bit.
On a recent trip to the fabric store, I picked up some fabric dyes on a whim and thought to myself, “this might be interesting”. The anticipation of doing something new and outside my comfort zone has always made my heart beat a little faster.  I couldn’t wait to experiment with the water and dye ratios.  I couldn’t wait to find out how long it would take the paper to absorb the richness of the dye.
I used an orange dye on my first trial and embarrassingly walked around for two days with orange fingers.  Note: The dyes will stain your hands!  Wear gloves!  For the rest of the day, people kept asking me if I had just eaten Cheetos.  Don’t make that same mistake.
Soon, the process evolved to somewhat of a meditative period for me and I began to look forward to it.  Time in the studio seemed to go by so quickly but productively.  I could dye the papers without my brain going a million miles per hour.  I could find utter enjoyment out of such a simple act and it could yield beautiful results.
I dyed four papers at a time.  It took any where from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how intense the dyes were and how much water I used.  I was pretty casual with it, never once measuring anything or getting fussy about the tonal range of color the dyes created on the papers.  Sometimes the dyes were inconsistent but I didn’t allow myself to get caught up in the obsessive details.  I just allowed the two elements to do their own, natural thing.
I saved each batch I used just in case I want to revisit the colors.  On a recent antiquing trip out with my mother, we came across some old glass bottles and jars.  They were absolutely perfect for storing the various colored dyes.  I color coded them using paper samples from each batch so they are easily identifiable. I can use and reuse them whenever I like.  Thanks, mom!
These hand-dyed papers will be on display in my booth at the New York Gift Show in August.  And for the next few months, I will be gearing up for it.  Hard.  I plan to have a new line of imagery, paper prints, and a bigger, better, badder booth.  I plan to take New York by storm (minus the Cheeto-dyed fingers!).