Pictured clockwise from top:
Materials: Mixed-media monoprints on Fabriano Tiepolo paper: 16 ¾” x 11”, 22”x 22”, 11”x13”
Location at Summa Health: Dr. Gary B. and Pamela S. Williams Tower on the Akron Campus (141 N. Forge St.), blue neighborhood, sixth floor hallway, outside patient rooms H6-125 and H6-126.
These three monoprints are based on family photos that Bellamy Printz has inherited — as “the only child of two only-children” — and augmented in an ongoing project of discovering, manipulating, and layering. Those of us who know Bellamy as one of the founders of Zygote Press in Cleveland know that she specializes in making prints. For her, this special trove of family images, going back now four generations, has been a continuing source for artmaking. Part of her contribution as an artist is the grouping and juxtaposition of snapshot images from widely different times to create meaning for the present. The three monoprints here are from a longer series that she has entitled Time Elastic. The central piece in this grouping for the Summa Collection was commissioned in order to create a work with strong visual presence for its intended location. Printz chose the particular image for this commission in order to create a narrative on the theme of comfort and solace which originates in her own family but has resonance for us all.
A monoprint is a print created by pressing a sheet of paper against a prepared ground, such that a single impression, or print, results (so not in multiples, as many prints are). In this case, the artist begins preparation by painting with watercolors on several sheets of mylar (a kind of plastic), which are then impressed on a sheet of dampened paper. This paper is then run through the press to receive the impression of the digitally printed, manipulated original photograph, which Printz has already worked in order to highlight or emphasize certain features or forms. This final run, a “double drop” (because the dampened paper receives two separate impressions) yields the final monoprint, in which both careful planning and happy accidents (“Pray to the printmaking gods”) cooperate. So, what might at first look to us like slightly fuzzy photographs are in fact one-of-a-kind prints which have been prepared, and selected, to be unique.
The title of the work at left, Pillar, Istanbul, 1974, prepares us for a vertical format and a vertical pillar: Surprise! Printz uses a horizontal format and a horizontal composition, and no obvious pillar, though the seated woman leans against something vertical, apparently a tree. But the title appears to be far more metaphorical, as the physical relationship of the young girl (the artist) to her mother suggests: The mother is a pillar of strength. What family sorrow or temporal or geographical dislocation this image records we can only imagine. The artist is content to provide us with this recognizable, familiar interaction rendered in soft focus and soft color (except for those red shoes!). Her reconstruction of this moment has the quality of a distant memory, and beholders may supply their own details.
The central monoprint, Bridge, Highland Heights, 2017, is figural, like most of Printz’ work, but observed at such close range that it almost becomes a still-life. The two clasping hands are those of a grandparent and grandchild at the close of the grandparent’s life. The title refers to how the physical presence of a loved one can help a dying person to cross over with some measure of comfort. There may also be the suggestion that, as the lines radiate from the hand of the grandfather — created by raking across the damp ink with a dry brush — the wisdom of age crosses to youth in some ineffable way. The palette of colors is very subtle and has an almost monochromatic effect, making this close-up view sculpturally powerful.
The right monoprint, Paused, Queens NY, 1975, reprises the notion of comforting so eloquent in the first print and implicit in the second: A child in a garden seeks momentary solace from a standing adult — a mom? a dad? a grandparent? — who subtly clasps the child’s head while appearing to stand alert against some kind of threat. We don’t see faces — Printz has hidden that of the child and cut off the photo of the adult at shoulder level — but we read the relationship, and the moment, from the poses. The adult stands confrontationally, left hand on hip, while the child buries her or his face below the adult breast. Printz is careful to give us the flowering trees or hedge in the background, as well as the leaves of grass, below, so this garden setting is important. But she leaves the interpretation, again, to the beholder, who might remember the historical importance of gardens, or even the Garden of Eden, that informs depictions of gardens in art for hundreds of years. The artist gives us room to consider all that.
Printz is a long-time Clevelander who grew up in New York City and travelled across the U.S. for her education: a B.A. from Macalester College (St. Paul, MN), a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the terminal M.F.A. from the University of Washington (Seattle). She was curator for the Cleveland Clinic’s art collection for 14 years and then began her own consulting and fine art printing business, Deep Dive Art Projects and Editions. She has also been active on the City of Cleveland Public Art Committee, serving, among other things, as manager of its public programs, and has taught at Kent State University and the Cleveland Institute of Art.
The Martha Joseph award of the Cleveland Arts Prize was given to Printz and Liz Maugans in 2012 in recognition of their vision in founding Zygote Press in 1996 and their perseverance in making it a key player in the Cleveland art scene. Printz’s work has been recognized with a commission from the Ohio Governor’s Award for the Arts and with an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council. She has been active internationally, coordinating Zygote Press’ international programs and completing a residency in Dresden (Germany) in 2009, as well as serving as a guest lecturer at the Third International Printmaking Seminar at the Universidad Finis Terrae in Santiago (Chile).
Where you can see more of this artist’s work:
On Printz’s website, you can find a good overview of recent work as well as her thoughtful, eloquent writing on the work, her techniques, and her thoughts about being an artist in this particular time and place. She has work in the Progressive Insurance and Cleveland Clinic collections, as well as in many private collections. Photo-based prints continue to be exhibited as part of the Yards Project at Worthington Yards and has also been seen at the former William Busta Gallery, at Zygote Press, Convivium 33, and the Wall Eye Gallery, all in Cleveland; at the Riffe Gallery in Columbus; at Baldwin-Wallace and Case-Western Reserve Universities; and in Dresden (Germany); Santiago, Chile; and Astoria (New York), Minneapolis (Minnesota), and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. A print commissioned by the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood remains on view there.