Mythical Garden, 2019
Materials: Linoleum block print on 100 percent cotton paper, edition no. 4/50, 20” x 30”
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, fifth floor hallway, outside staff lounge H5-313.
This striking print, the fourth in a print run of 50, projects power in its patterned and densely composed surface and in its single bold color: Before we even begin to sort out what we’re seeing, we are immersed in the organic, growing, teeming world of a garden, a red garden and so most probably fantastic. Full of sinuous branches and compound leaves bearing fruit and flowers, this garden also welcomes partridge-like birds perched on lower branches and a hybrid creature with a feline body and tail, bird’s head, and wings, increasing its mythic vibe.
These details may, or may not, come from some legend handed down for generations among the peoples of Uzbekistan, where Dinara Mirtalipova was born and grew up. Her memories of the life-affirming quality of myth seem to be underscored by the abundance that she represents here: She fills in almost every space in the horizontal composition and creates texture within larger forms, like the body of the hybrid, the feathers of the birds, and the bark of the tree. This is a contemporary expression of an ancient technique known as horror vaqui, found in ancient metalworking and ceramic decorative traditions as well as in traditional textiles (see picture below). So in this design feature, too, we can appreciate that Mythical Garden also celebrates these older, persistent folkloric traditions.
An ancient technique known as horror vaqui is found in ancient metalworking and ceramic decorative traditions as well as in traditional textiles.
The choices of forms and textural elements that articulate them are the artist’s, of course. Mirtalipova first earned a degree in information technology and cybernetics at the Tashkent State University of Economics and then emigrated to the U.S. as a young adult, bringing with her a love of Uzbek and Russian folkways and art. Ultimately, she was able to translate that love into a position as designer for American Greetings (having begun there as an administrator), and then within a short time launched her own company, Mirdinara. She now creates textiles, greeting cards, and calendars; designs and illustrates books and book covers; and provides designs for corporate clients such as Moleskine, Netflix, Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie, Godiva and Papyrus. She also produces prints in limited editions, such as this one; in 2019 she was awarded a residency at Cleveland’s Zygote Press that allowed her to experiment and explore directions in printmaking in greater detail. You can see her and the range of her work in her studio in this video from the Akron Art Museum.
She particularly finds linoleum block print a medium that suits her goal of making quantities of work to sell, as well as one that reflects the folk arts heritage of her homeland, which she misses and treasures. Bright colors and a limited color scheme or palette, as in this print, create bold images that resonate when we focus on them. Or they become patterns that repeat and establish an environment of joy in their free, densely entwined forms.
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
On Mirtalipova’s website, you can see both her fine arts prints and other items that she has designed or been commissioned to decorate as a commercial artist. She has also designed and illustrated a significant number of books as well as having written several, such as Imagine a Forest (2017). Her work has been exhibited with the Akron Art Museum in Live Creative (2019-2020), with Zygote Press in Cleveland, and several times with the New York Society of Illustrators, as well as with American Greetings. You can also enjoy the recently completed commission on the corner of Church and State (today’s West 29th Street) in Ohio City in West Cleveland: A huge (635’ long, 20’ or two stories high) work printed on vinyl mesh that includes some of the same joyful, mythical creatures and forms we find in the Summa Collection print.