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Spokane Print Fest 2020 includes in-person exhibits, virtual shows and workshops

UPDATED: Thu., Nov. 5, 2020

By Audrey Overstreet For The Spokesman-Review

After only three years in Spokane, printmaker Reinaldo Gil Zambrano has put his stamp (pun intended) on the local arts scene. Zambrano is one of several collaborators – including four local universities, five galleries and dozens of regional and national artists – whose passion for everything printmaking will culminate in the second annual Spokane Print Fest this month.

Gonzaga University assistant professor Zambrano is a Venezuelan native who co-founded the Spokane Print and Publishing Center

The celebration, officially starting Friday, will include three in-person exhibits, two virtual shows, four in-person workshops and experts on Zoom and Instagram Live. All in-person and online Print Fest events will explore traditional and contemporary printmaking methods ranging from relief and intaglio to etching and letter press.

“Printmaking teaches people the aesthetic sensibilities of using their hands and about being able to build their own narratives and individual expressions in a way that can be reproduced for many,” Zambrano said. “It is something beautiful to share with all the community.”

Despite the event’s cancellation last April due to COVID-19, the monthlong Print Fest is now set to begin Friday from 5-7:30 p.m. with two masked, in-person exhibitions opening at Terrain Gallery and Saranac Art Projects.

Another in-person printmaking exhibition affiliating itself with Print Fest is the national tour of “Pop Power: From Warhol to Koons” that opened last month at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

“We want to make Print Fest something that people will look forward to every year in Spokane as a way to explore their own city by looking at all the different places and all the art that is related to printmaking,” Zambrano said.

The exhibit at Terrain, co-curated by Zambrano and Spokane Falls Community College Fine Arts instructor Carl Richardson, is titled “Huella Dactilar,” or “fingerprint” in English. More than 25 artists, many nationally known, will present images of their personal narratives.

Fingerprint is a reference to the printmaking “matrix” that humans naturally have built into their hands. In printmaking, a matrix is a physical surface such as a block of wood, sheet of linoleum, metal plate or limestone that can hold ink so it can be transferred to paper.

“As human beings, we have these fingerprints, or built-in matrix, that you can just dip into ink and then reproduce several times,” Zambrano said. “It’s your own personal printmaking process.”

For her pieces at the Terrain show, Gonzaga art professor Mary Farrell used a mezzotint printmaking process to create a piece titled “Moment 2.” The portrait is of her niece Phoebe holding a paper above her head to block the rain.

In a complex and time-consuming method, Farrell used a weighted tool on a copper plate to create a sandpaper surface with divots on which she then drew her image by scraping with different tools in a reductive process.

The transfer of ink from the copper plate onto paper produced a print with soft gradations of tone and rich, velvety blacks. Farrell’s dry point method was developed in the 17th century and enabled half-tones to be produced without using line- or dot-based techniques like hatching, cross-hatching or stipple.

“The process is so complicated that it is hard to explain in words,” Farrell laughed. “Printmaking is so wonderfully physical and sensual. It’s the visceral, hands-on aspect that is just so luscious and rewarding.”

Farrell and Zambrano describe the physicality of printmaking as a sublime experience. “I just love this process,” Zambrano said. “It makes me really happy when I share it with others in the community and watch them get excited about it, too.” “Reinaldo and I are printmaking geeks who just love the smell of ink,” Farrell said.

The Saranac Arts Project show happening at the same time Friday night as the Terrain show features more works by Farrell and Zambrano. Both printmakers ventured outside their usual mediums, with Farrell incorporating mixed media and Zambrano employing photography. “That’s why we called the show ‘Time to Play,’ ” Zambrano said.

The printmaking processes both artists have enjoyed include wood cut, etching, monotype, polyester plate lithography, color relief, screen printing and more. So many printmaking processes such as intaglio are “show-me” kind of methods, demanding hands-on demonstrations and specialized tools.

Last year, Farrell especially enjoyed the live demos that she and other art professors hosted in the gallery surrounded by examples of the art. “It was so beautiful to watch last year as my students were just learning, and when people came to watch them, and asked questions, the students took ownership and explained the process,” Farrell said. “It was lovely.”

Much of Print Fest will look different this year, but organizers have found creative ways to make up for the need for social distancing. In addition to all the artwork to view in small gatherings and online, there will still be hands-on workshops, but with a limited number of spots available. Tickets are $50 and can be reserved through the Print Fest website.

Member artists of the Spokane Print and Publishing Center at 1921 N. Ash St. will teach workshops every Saturday in November. Saturday is “Panorama Books With Mel Hewitt,” Nov. 14 is “Screen Printing With Derek Landers,” and Nov. 21 is “Letter Press With Thom Caraway and Bethany Taylor.”

The Print and Publishing Center will offer two workshops on Nov. 28: “Relief Printing With Zambrano” and “Stab Books With Dorian Karahalios.” The virtual printmaking exhibition Wooden Storytellers is already continuing and online at the Chase Gallery showcasing large woodcuts by the director of Big Ink, Lyell Castonguay.

The Jundt Art Museum at Gonzaga is hosting “Matrix Press: 20 Years of Collaboration,” an exhibition of limited-edition prints by artists in conjunction with University of Montana students and faculty. The “Cuentos, Mitos y Leyendas de America Latina” exhibition hosted by Eastern Washington University Art Gallery is a result of a portfolio exchange that features 23 prints by artists from the U.S. and Mexico. Online links to all exhibitions are free and available at Spokane Print Fest.

In addition to exhibitions and workshops, there also will be a free online panel discussion and Instagram Live studio visits. The panel discussion will explore whether and how printmaking is still relevant in a digital world. Panelists will include Farrell, Carraway, author Sharma Shields, Whitworth professor Dr. Bert Emerson and Black Lens News publisher Sandra Williams.

The IG live sessions will be hosted every Wednesday by artists from their studios. The lineup includes Ben Munoz from Dallas; 3 Gatos Press from Guadalajara, Mexico; and Sue van Gageldonk from Holland. Time and social media links for the panel discussion and IGs will be announced at spokaneprintfest.com.

The Spokane Print and Publishing Center will host a holiday sale at its gift shop for shoppers from 2-5 p.m. Nov. 28.

“I feel like all of us are trying to find a way to energize our souls through this really isolating and scary period,” Farrell said. “I give Reinaldo tremendous credit for infusing this event with energy and passion.”

The point of Print Fest, according to Zambrano, and of the Spokane Print and Publishing Center is to make the specialized techniques, heavy equipment and hands-on education required to engage in printmaking accessible to diverse groups.

“Printmaking is a media that has been created that somehow makes available information and imagery for people no matter what their social strata or social background,” Zambrano said. “We want to help provide access and to celebrate that core of what printmaking is.”

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