Artist Statement

Endangered Spaces

The kinds of places I find most appealing to look at, and make silkscreens of, keep getting closed or torn down and replaced by big box stores, high-rise offices and seaside McMansions. Windows and porches — public edges of private lives — are the subjects I have return to most often. I want my art to say: treasure those battered old porches and those cluttered, human-scale storefronts while they’re still around. As you pass by, notice them.

Look hard at a place that was built on a human scale and has known a lot of use, and it begins to suggest stories of the people who’ve put their hands to it. You can start to find an interplay between the original design of a place and how it’s been lived in and changed over time. The present is overlaid onto visible ghosts of the past.

And if you happen to be looking through a window, there is another layering, as the scene behind you is superimposed upon what is inside. Reflections on old storefront windows make downtown walks fascinating. They create layers behind interesting layers, the scenes moving and changing by the second and yet seeable by every passerby for decades or a century.

But for how much longer?

One of my key motivations as an artist is the urge to save what I see. It’s such a foolish-sounding old-fashioned wish, in this day of photography. Yet photography helps my goal along, making people and light stand still, as colors and forms recorded by the camera’s eye capture some of the beauty in everyday places. Then I go home and try to recreate how the light hit, how the air felt, at the moment I was there.

I print all my own editions. (There’s no real choice: it is only during the printing that the images evolve.) Using hand-painted and hand-drawn stencils, I build up many layers of varyingly transparent ink. Most layers are themselves blends of colors fading into each other. The best of my prints have a surface quality which I find hard to match in my paintings: a richness and depth that come from overlaying so many transparent blends. One of the finest thing about silkscreening is the way it enables an artist to produce all-at-once washes of transparent, blended colors. I don’t know any other way of working so readily with planes of color, not flat planes necessarily but multi-directional, curving planes that, when superimposed, can create a much deeper sense of space than silkscreen gets credit for.

The silkscreen process lends itself to printing curved planes of color as readily as flat planes of color, and I like to create a sense of space.

However hard I try to plan, it usually takes 50 to 100 layers before a full-size silkscreen comes alive. After a particularly interminable edition, when I may have spent a year working on one image, it can be a relief to shift gears and turn to a bit of acrylic painting. But I soon start to miss the physical process of screenprinting and that smooth sweep of colors blending across the page, and I return to the medium I love best.

Nancy McIntyre