A press plays an important role in the printmaking process; it’s used to force an image from a prepared inked surface onto paper or other material.
But in the case of the recently opened “Contemporary Women Printmakers” exhibit at the Washington State University Museum of Art, a press isn’t just a tool — it also serves as a metaphor.
The exhibit features the work of six printmakers, all women, whose work has been attracting art world attention. Though their styles, techniques and nationalities vary, each explores issues of gender, race and sexuality in her work.
That’s where the metaphor comes in.
“‘Press’ means to give force or burden,” said Zach Mazur, museum curator. “So it becomes a metaphor for gender oppression.”
Printmaking has traditionally been associated with men, he explained. It’s a physically demanding artistic process that can involve lifting heavy plates and working with presses. The current exhibit breaks with these traditionally-held associations.
That’s one of the reasons it’s fitting that this is the final show in the museum’s current location, Mazur said. The museum is reopening in a new location next year (see accompanying story for details).
“These are artists whose ethnicity, background or gender has prevented them from being completely celebrated in the arts,” said Mazur. “Our hope is that this exhibit will encourage conversation about what it means to be ‘othered’ in this society.”
The critical questions the show raises will continue to be explored in the museum’s new space, he said, and the conversation couldn’t be more timely given recent current events surrounding race and gender.
“Art opens up lines of communication,” Mazur said.
The exhibit is intended to evoke emotion, he explained, and it serves as a point at which to begin a dialogue on subjects people may otherwise find uncomfortable.
The show will close with a reception and lecture by one of the featured artists, Wendy Red Star, a Crow American Indian. In order to make conversation more accessible for younger generations, her 10-year-old daughter, Beatrice Red Star Fletcher, will join her.
Docent-led tours of the exhibit are available for groups and can be arranged by contacting the museum at (509) 335-1910.
WHAT: “Contemporary Women Printmakers”
WHEN: Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; through Nov. 17.
A closing reception and lecture is planned 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 17.
WHERE: Washington State University Museum of Art, Pullman