Artist: Catherine Shuman Miller // Title: "Intermaze" // On view through March 22 in Betty's
Sometimes we need a little bit of structure in order to be truly free.
This is one of the central paradoxes of modernism. And in visual art, nowhere is this idea more obvious than in painters' use of the grid as a structure upon which to hang all sorts of images and ideas. In a new series of etchings on view in Betty's, Catherine Shuman Miller has employed the grid as a jumping-off point for cool and considered reflections on topics as broad as bureaucracy and as specific as the plight of foreign refugees.
In "Intermaze," an etching of blue orbital blobs against intersecting lines of ruddy orange blue that call to mind a freehanded Mondrian, both of those ideas are at play.
"I was first inspired to use the maze as a symbol to embody the bureaucratic challenges foreign refugees face when trying to gain refugee status," Miller said in an email. "The maze allowed me to explore layering and movement within the grid structure."
To create her prints, Miller uses a variety of methods, including silk collagraphs, dry point, carborundum and relief plates. For "Intermaze," she explained her multistep process, in which she used plexiglass plates scratched with a sharp tool to create the lines you see in the finished product:
"I work on an etching press with etching inks, but the plates in which I prepare to print are of non-traditional material. For this particular print the plates I used are from plexiglass. The carborundum plates are a mixture of a silicon carbide grit and an acrylic medium. This mixture is painted on the surface of the plate. When dry, it has a texture similar to sandpaper and is on the surface of the plate. When the plate is inked and wiped in the traditional etching manner, ink is retained in and around the grit. The result is similar to a traditional aquatint but with the carborundum there is some embossing on the paper, because of the structure of the plate."
The finished print, she wrote, "is a loose hybrid of the maze and energetic drawing. It is a combination of the impulse of drawing circles, and the imposing structure of the grid."