Archivo Grafica Printmaking Studio in Mexico City welcomes me with open arms

One of my new artist friends is Ana Lopez-Montes who I met through the Art Lab virtual residency at PRPG.mx. She is also the studio manager for Archivo Gráfica, a printmaking studio that has been located in Roma, in downtown Mexico City, for the last 30 years.

To be honest, when Ana started to urge me to come, I felt rather intimidated and bewildered. I hadn’t done monotype printmaking since my 20s. However, the Universe has a way of placing opportunities in front of us and I decided to accept the invitation from that perspective.

When I arrived, Ana had already set up two plates and a work station for me. I looked at some of the other prints in the studio for inspiration and ideas. Ana taught me how to ink the plates and soon I was off and running. The Maestro of the studio, Felipe Cortés Reyes, cleaned the edges of the plate, and then Ana positioned the plate and the moistened paper and fed them through the press and back. For each print run, there was a magic moment when the paper was peeled back to reveal the new print.

Kruger working on a plate
Kruger working at table

Ana also helped me by cutting out birds from my screen-printed sheets and we inked them on the plates. In addition to playing with colors and swirling forms, the birds started to emerge. Some of them were shadow images and others had stronger colors. Some of these abstract prints would make beautiful NFT artwork.

By this time, my reluctance and intimidation had disappeared and I was busy creating two prints at a time, each more complex than the previous one. After three hours, I had printed 12 prints and felt like a new avenue for my artwork and images had opened up to me.

Felipe and Ana invited me back to print again in a larger format when I return to Mexico City.

I will start selling some limited editions of my prints later this spring. Stay tuned for more information and updates from my second visit to Archivo Gráfica.

Click on image to view full size

Maestro Felipe Cortes cleaning a plate
Maestro Felipe placing plate on press
Tools and Ink
Ana showing print right off the press
Prints on drying rack
Last and best print of the day
Artist drinking craft mescal
Maestro Felipe, Ana the studio manager and two artists
Two prints drying on rack
Closeup of work table

Resources:

Website for Ana Lopez-Montes: https://www.analopezmontes.com/

Article about Felipe Cortés: https://www.uv.mx/difusioncultural/general/pluritipia/

Article about Taller Archivo Gráfico: https://www.enlacejudio.com/2013/10/08/aniversario-de-archivo-grafico/

To reserve time at the Printmaking Studio contact Ana Lopez-Montes (trilingual): ana.lopezmontes@gmail.com

Residency at Hypatia-in-the-Woods

Like many artists, I enjoy getting away from my daily life and periodically indulging myself in an artist residency. In August 2021, I spent a heavenly two weeks at Hypatia-in-the-Woods located in South Puget Sound, south of Seattle, WA.

Hypatia desk
Drawing desk at Holly House
Hypatia cottage
Holly House in the Woods
Artist in the doorway of Holly House

This is a residency of one – my favorite type! Many artists and writers who come to my residency program in Mexico, 360 Xochi Quetzal (see link below), are looking to not only connect with their creative work but also connect with other colleagues for feedback and to expand their professional networks. For me, an artist with a team-based practice, having time alone was extremely appealing. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t function without my team. But as a basically introverted person, I love my own companionship and this was a wonderful opportunity to spend time alone to think, work and rejuvenate.

 

Artist drawing Scarlet Macaw
Suzanne Shaw and Deborah

Named for the third century Greek astronomer, philosopher and mathematician, Hypatia-in-the-Woods was the brainchild of the late Elspeth Pope, a Canadian writer who was influenced by the mission of Hypatia Trust in England. She decided to create a US counterpart and her vision was to provide a safe space to support the work of women in the arts, academia, and entrepreneurship. Elspeth’s husband, Jim Holly, built Holly House, the Hypatia cottage, from trees grown on the surrounding land in Hammersley Inlet. Hypatia-in-the-Woods is run by a large group of volunteers, who all knew Elspeth and most of whom are also writers.

Suzanne Shaw, a Hypatia resident writer and volunteer, picked me up at the Amtrak station in Olympia, WA and drove me almost an hour to a town where I bought enough groceries for two weeks. Then she drove me another 20 minutes to the residency. Although Hypatia is in the town of Shelton, WA, the writing retreat is in the woods about 5 miles from town. Suzanne helped me unload groceries and get me settled in the beautiful cottage.

While some visual artists also attend the residency, from the trove of residency journals, it appears that most of the residents are writers and poets. There was a writing desk on the upstairs loft and this is where I did most of my work. During the two weeks, I did eight new drawings of endangered birds including the Collared Aracari, Scarlet Macaw, Royal Flycatcher, Reddish Egret, Shining HoneyCreeper, Harpy Eagle, Grasshopper Sparrow and Crested Owl.

Drawing of Collared Aracari
Drawing of Scarlet Macaw

My days generally looked like this: wake up and exercise or do yoga, go for a walk, read and have breakfast and then start to draw by 11am. I usually took a nap and also went for an evening walk. The rest of the day was spent drawing. My drawings are very detailed and having nothing more to do except draw, I found myself spending more time on each drawing than I had done previously and this time paid off in better drawings. Sometimes while I worked, I listened to an interview with artists on youtube. It was a tremendously productive time and also deeply peaceful.

Hyaptia artist at library
Artist at Shelton Library public talk

During this solitary time, I had two public appearances. One Thursday evening, other volunteers picked me up and drove me to the Timberland Shelton public library, where I gave a talk about my artwork. The library tech team was able to project my documentary on a large screen (see link below). It was fun to talk about my work and take questions from a very responsive audience. Afterwards, there was a delicious potluck dinner served at the home of the director, Carolyn Maddux.

 

The second public talk was held in conjunction with a group show titled “Abstraction” in the Manifold Global on-line gallery. This was my first virtual exhibition and I was introduced to the new technology that allows one to ‘go’ to the exhibit and ‘see’ it.  The two curators, Emily Strong and Matthew Pring, facilitated the conversation asking many questions about my art practice and art philosophies. There is a link to that talk in the Resources section below.

Hypatia artist at Abstraction
Artist at Abstraction public talk

One day in the second week, Carolyn, the director, picked me up for a day of hiking the nearby Olympic range. As an avid hiker most of my life, spending time in these majestic mountains was a huge treat.

Hiking in the Olympics on a suspended bridge
Olympic scene
Olympic river
Making it in the Art World by Brainard Carey

 I am also an avid reader and it was a pleasure to read four books in two weeks! One of them is Brainard Carey’s “How to Make it in the Art World.” My big takeaway from this book was to aim much higher in terms of where I want to show and who I want supporting my work. Brainard runs a great artist resource called the Praxis Center (see link below) which offers artists of all levels a large and helpful network.

There is something profound that happens when I am alone for long periods of time. Without the constant distractions of life and the art team, my thoughts run at a deeper level. In a way similar to yoga, where deep breathing helps one to drop down into the body in a different and deeper way, being alone for long stretches at the residency saw a parallel drop down into my thinking and creativity. New ideas bubble up, as do new art marketing strategies. Living in the woods was so healing. On my daily walks down the inlet, I often picked wild blackberries for snacks and for breakfast. The forest smells and sounds made me feel drunk with happiness. I never felt lonely and only wished I could have stayed another week!

Transitions back to ‘real’ life can be difficult. Suzanne Shaw made this much easier by picking me up and bringing me back to Olympia where we spent a gorgeous morning walking at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. I am not exaggerating that we saw millions of black raspberries!

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Profusion of blackberries

Resources:

Hypatia-in-the-Woods Residency: http://hypatiainthewoods.org/

The Hypatia Trust: https://hypatia-trust.org.uk/

360 Xochi Quetzal Artist & Writers Residency:https://360xochiquetzal.com/

Artist Communities Alliance: https://artistcommunities.org/

Manifold Global: https://manifoldglobal.com/

Artist Talk on Abstraction: https://youtu.be/pgPHM0Jygu4

Artist Documentary: Deborah Kruger Art & Process https://youtu.be/fzUzWZI5w1A

Praxis Center: https://praxiscenterforaestheticstudies.com/

How to Make it in the Art World: https://www.amazon.com/dp/162153765X/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?_encoding=UTF8&fbclid=IwAR0m2cFPe9xHLHPOV6ZWn4LLIYT6KcNYm6pGmWSxRBQedXbFxe-n82LTyfo&ref_=dp_ob_neva_mobile

Relationship between drawings and artwork

Drawing and research are the basic building blocks of my art practice. Let me take you through the process so that you can see how the drawings and my art are completely intertwined.

My work entails a lot of research. I read about birds that are endangered by habitat fragmentation, climate change, extreme weather events and other environmental threats.

The first step is drawing the endangered birds. Each drawing takes many hours and involves lots of detail. I seem to do my best drawings when I am at a residency. This past summer I attended Hypatia-in-the-Woods, a residency of one located in picturesque South Puget Sound.

Scarlet Macaw

Pictured above is a drawing of a Scarlet Macaw, a rainforest dweller whose numbers are dwindling rapidly. Below is the silk screen that has a silhouette of the following birds: A Collared Arakari, the Crested Owl, the Great Green Macaw and the Scarlet Macaw.

I also do a lot of research and image development of endangered indigenous languages. This entails working with ethno-linguists from the Universities of Guadalajara and Chiapas as well as a calligrapher.

Here are some samples of the text that we use to overprint the bird images. These languages include Tsotzil, Purepecha, Zoque and Cho’lol.

My most recent pieces were exhibited at PRPG.mx Gallery in Mexico City and all have long tail feathers printed from a set of four silk-screens and overprinted with seven different texts. Each of the silk screens has silhouettes of 4 – 5 endangered birds that I have drawn.

As you take a close look at a detail of my piece Devotional, you can see snippets of the birds and text. In case you were wondering, all the text silkscreens are translations from the the paragraph I wrote about the sad statistics about disappearing birds and languages.

Devotional
Devotional Detail View

As you can see in the art, the printed images are all cut up into feathers. Since I am an abstract artist, I am trying to convey a lot of information and using complex processes adds to the layering of this work. It is not my intent for viewers to actually read the text but more to evoke feelings about the content of my work.

All these layers of process, images and text and materiality reflect the complexity of the problems that contribute to extinction.

“By using recycled materials and materiality-based pieces, I hope to induce viewers to consider some of the solemn issues addressed in this new body of work. Plumas is both a celebration of the beauty that birds bring to our lives as well as a warning about what we may lose in our lifetimes if we do not take action. “  -quoted from interview with Deborah Kruger in Art Spiel

A team-based approach is required for creating work of this scale, just as a complex global response is required to shift the consumption and policies that may still save some species. 

Whether you are reading this as an artist or art lover, I hope I have illustrated how simple drawings can become the building blocks for large-scale and complex artwork.

Ropa Pintada
Ropa Pinatada Detail View
Vortex
Vortex Detail View

Why White? My ongoing white series

"...sometimes, like meditating, I need to visually take a breath. After every two or three richly colored pieces, I need to make a piece in white."

I love color.  Deep, saturated color that elevates your heart rate.  Most of my work over the years has been done in earth tones and rich jewel tones. But sometimes, like meditating, I need to visually take a breath. After every two or three richly colored pieces, I need to make a piece in white.

Over the years, I have loved artists who work predominantly in white. Most of them are Asian. There is an Asian aesthetic that embraces a quiet, modest, monochromatic white color scheme.  I find these pieces brave and confident in their insistence on using white to capture our attention. When you strip color away, you are left to contemplate form, materials and content without distraction.

I first saw Zhu Jinshi’s immersive sculpture installation, Boat, at the San Antonio Art Museum in Texas. Boat and a subsequent piece The Ship of Time envelop the viewer who must walk through the piece to experience it. The Beijing-based contemporary painter made these pieces using white and naturally colored Xuan (rice) paper.

Boat by Zhu Jinshi
Ship of Time by Zhu Jinshi

Chun Kwang Young, a Seoul-based artist, makes complex abstract constructions, fabricated with hundreds of individual component shapes wrapped in mulberry paper. Each triangular component is covered with Korean and Chinese characters inspired by medicine packets from his childhood. While not all his work is white, most of it is monochromatic.

Aggregation by Chun Kwang Young

Over the last five years I have gradually created a series of white pieces using feathers made from recycled plastic bags screen-printed with images of endangered birds and endangered languages. For the white pieces, I print on white plastic bags and although the overall impression is white, there are many colors in play. 

Pile of White Feathers

Chun Kwang Young, a Seoul-based artist, makes complex abstract constructions, fabricated with hundreds of individual component shapes wrapped in mulberry paper. Each triangular component is covered with Korean and Chinese characters inspired by medicine packets from his childhood. While not all his work is white, most of it is monochromatic.

Aggregation by Chun Kwang Young

Over the last five years I have gradually created a series of white pieces using feathers made from recycled plastic bags screen-printed with images of endangered birds and endangered languages. For the white pieces, I print on white plastic bags and although the overall impression is white, there are many colors in play. 

Pile of White Feathers

The first piece to incorporate my signature plastic feathers was Abandon. The title is a play on words because it evokes that lovely sense of letting go. However, the darker meaning is that we have abandoned our birds by letting our appetite for development prevail over protecting bird habitat and therefore bird species. Abandon is currently traveling throughout Mexico as part of the Rufino Tamayo Bienal, which will culminate in an exhibition of the top 51 painters in Mexico at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Internacional Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City. 

Abandon
Abandon, detail view
Kansai

After the intensely colored Cambodia series where all five pieces appeared in the shape of the country of Cambodia, I was ready for another white piece. Kansai was also based on a map, this time on the state of Kansai in Japan. Whereas Cambodia referred to the last remaining habitat of the Bengal Florican, Kansai is a state where there are 41 endangered bird species. Like Abandon, Kansai was predominantly white but it has a border of red feathers. The red and white color scheme is a nod to the colors of the Japanese flag. In late 2020, I built a crate for Kansai so that she could be exhibited in the Art Textile Biennale, which was traveling to several venues throughout Australia.

Several map-based pieces later, it was time for another white piece. Vortex was my first foray into applying feathers to a sculptural form. Using a spiral shape made from iron, bubble wrap and a coating of paper mache, I coated the form with white feathers that gradually became darker towards the center. This piece was featured on the cover of SAQA Journal, a wonderful magazine that highlights work by contemporary art quilters. 

Saqa Jornal Cover

During the pandemic, I started a huge mural-sized piece titled Accidentals. It was a riot of color and it was no surprise that I needed a visual break afterwards. Devotional was born out of the desire to calm my mind and body and to create a piece that would be an ode to our disappearing birds. I wanted a title that would evoke the prayers one might say to petition a higher source for saving birds.

Devotional vs. Accidentals
Ropa Blanca

I loved the new tail feather form that I used for Accidentals and Devotional and created a smaller piece, Ropa Blanca that was inspired by the huipils woven and worn by indigenous women in Chiapas, Mexico and in Guatemala. Ropa Blanca was shipped to a gallery in Madrid as soon as it was finished. Which means there is another white piece in the wings!

 

My sense is that making white pieces will remain part of my art practice for many years to come.

My Floor as Evidence of Productivity

Process

You’re probably thinking, isn’t your work the evidence of productivity? Well, yes and no. Work ebbs and flows. Like most abstract painting, I build up the surface of my work and sometimes tear it down until I get it right. Despite the progress on the wall, the floor becomes the evidence of how much work is being done. 

Scraps of Accidentals on the floor
Scraps of Fragmentation on the floor

 

It actually gives me satisfaction to come up to the art studio and see all the clippings on the floor. Like seeing paint drips on a drop cloth, I can see what colors I’ve been working on. It’s like a visual journal. I can look at the wall and see what section is under construction. And then look at the floor and see the correspondent colors. 

There’s one more thing about the scraps on the floor that delights me. I love the random pattern of where the clippings fall and pile up. They create their own abstract design on the floor. Sometimes I even save them for other projects.

If you have been following my blogs and art career, you already know that I often recycle scraps from one piece into another. These little clippings are no exception. I’ve included a few recent examples of clippings. I hope you find them as charming as I do. 

If you use drop cloths, scraps, notes or other side products in your work, I’d love to see and hear about how your incorporate them. It would be fun to share examples of this evidence.

The Making of Ropa Blanca

I have just finished my first huipil-inspired piece titled Ropa Blanca. Many of my pieces gestate for a long time and Ropa Blanca was no exception. Like in my piece Kimono, I used the huipil, a traditional women’s blouse, as my inspiration. The references included images of Frida Kahlo’s clothing that are now on view at her museum in Mexico City.

Frida Kahlo outfit
Huipil reference materials
Ropa Blanca, full view

An Inspirational trip to Chiapas...

In April 2019, I visited Chiapas for the first time. San Cristóbal de las Casas (also known by its Tzotzil name, Jovel), a Spanish colonial city, is the center of this colorful textile region.

San Cristobal street view

The highlight of the trip was visiting the Textile Museum, which houses thousands of garments and hundreds of huipils woven and embroidered in Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico and also nearby Guatemala.

Textile Museum of Chiapas, huipil view 1
Textile Museum of Chiapas, huipil view 2

The indigenous population of Chiapas is largely Mayan and many Mayan languages are still spoken.  The women wear furry black skirts and colorful huipil blouses. During the trip, I met a linguist moon-lighting as as tour guide. He taught at the University of Chiapas and ended up helping me collect four Mayan languages for my text: Tzotzil, Zoque, Cho’lol and Yakme (look for an upcoming blog about our calligraphy!).

Mayan girl in traditional fur skirt

And Ropa Blanca was born...

I wasn’t as confident about my ability to handle white as I am with strong colors, so I decided to make a smaller piece as an experiment. My interest in making a smaller piece coincided with my musings about huipils and thus Ropa Blanca was born! 

In order to create a large white piece, I realized I needed a big inventory of feathers. Beginning this summer, my screen-printing team began producing hundreds of sheets of primarily white feathers. Although I love working with saturated colors, every few pieces I take a break and create a white piece. Kansai, Abandon and Vortex all fall into this ongoing series of largely white pieces.

Artist working on piece
Screen prints on wall
Assistants working on piece

I decided to sew a wrapped cord onto the top of the piece to define the edge as I had done with Accidentals. I also echoed the vertical stripes that frequently appear in the weaving of traditional huipils.

As Ropa Blanca was taking shape, I was contacted by a gallery in Madrid that wants to represent my work at art fairs in Europe. The first fair will be in Paris in late January. They wanted smaller work and chose two pieces from my Cambodia series. Since they wanted a third piece, I will add Ropa Blanca to the crate going to Madrid in early January. I’m curious to see how my work will be received in Spain and France.

Wrapped cord before sewing onto the piece

I definitely see Ropa Blanca as the beginning of a new series, so stay tuned for more Huipil inspired works!

Looking back on 2016 France Residency

Since it was fall and a bit chilly, there were no other residents. We each had a private bedroom and also a writing or drawing studio. We settled into a rhythm of working most of the day, taking rambles through the beautiful countryside in the late afternoon and making a communal dinner with our Residency Director, Michelle Dominique Anderson. 

Exactly 4 years ago I started my Residency at La Porte Peinte Centre Pour les Arts in the tiny medieval village of Noyers-sur-Serein, France bordered by the Serein River. This picturesque village is 2 hours south east of Paris (by high speed train) in the middle of Burgundy country. Fortunately I had studied French in high school and amazingly it all came galloping back. The other resident was a writer named Amy Williams from Charlotte, North Carolina and we forged a lifelong friendship during our three weeks in Noyers.

When I was getting ready and excited for this first trip to France, my husband asked me what I was going to eat since I don’t eat bread, cheese, wine or chocolate, all staples of the French diet. Twice a week there was a farmer’s market in the square and we could get all kinds of local vegetables including the famous French mushrooms. There was also fish, fresh and smoked as well as charcuterie, so I ate like a queen…well maybe a duchess!

I hadn’t been to a residency for many years and I spent this one researching endangered birds and drawing them. By the end of three weeks, I had a portfolio of 18 new drawings that became the basis for many silk screens and ceramics that I have been using ever since.

In the morning, I often started my day at a local café, where I was greeted by “Bonjour Cobra” from some of the creative locals that have settled in Noyers. I met potters, a leather artist, yoga teacher and other painters. Although there are hundreds of these little villages across France, Noyers seems to have attracted a population of artists and thinkers.

Everything about the residency was inspiring: the massive stone architecture, the late fall flowers, fields dotted with cows and horses, trails through the woods and always the food. We even went to a movement class twice a week. 

(click on any image to view in slideshow)

f you have not yet gone to a residency, I encourage you to apply to one. There are several organizations dedicated to sharing residency information. My favorite is the Alliance for Artist Communities where you can search for residencies by location. Some are free, some pay a stipend and many charge a modest fee. https://www.artistcommunities.org/

Art and writing residencies offer uninterrupted time to create and think and they often provide the chance to meet new friends and colleagues who can also generate professional opportunities. Some residencies serve meals, some are large communities and some are tiny. I will be attending a very competitive one-person residency in July 2021 called Hypatia-in-the-Woods located in Shelton, WA in the Pacific Northwest of the US. http://hypatiainthewoods.org/

I also run a residency program in Chapala, Mexico called 360 Xochi Quetzal, which attracts artists, writers and performers from around the world. Check us out: https://360xochiquetzal.com/

 

My residency at La Porte Peinte was an unforgettable experience which will reverberate for many years through my art and art practice.

La Porte Peinte Centre Pours les Arts: 

Website: http://laportepeinte.com/

Instagram: @laportepeinte

Facebook: @laportepeinte

Previous blog about the France drawings: https://deborahkruger.com/drawings-of-endangered-birds-from-artist-residency-in-france/

Residency Resources:

https://resartis.org/  based in Europe; many great residency listings

https://www.artistcommunities.org/ based in the US with international listings

http://hypatiainthewoods.org/  3 deadlines a year

https://360xochiquetzal.com/ year round personal residencies

Amy Jane Williams:

Personal FB: https://www.facebook.com/amyvangogh

Compassionate therapy FB: https://www.facebook.com/amywilliamswellness

Wanda Petunia for Self Care: https://www.facebook.com/WandaPetuniaLove/

Accidentals: The Story of Randomness in Art-making

In a recent artist interview in the Textile Curator blog, the curator asked how long a piece took to complete. There was really no way to answer but the story behind Accidentals is a good case in point.

Two years ago I pinned up about 90 sheets of my silk screened plastic sheets onto a wall in my studio. It looked like a crazy quilt. I had an idea about making an oversize artist book. It was interesting but not extraordinary.

Part 1: Break A Leg!

Solo Show Proposal Accepted!
Sergio Unzeta, the curator who was responsible for my solo show in Chapala (2018), has become a big fan of my work and has been shopping exhibition proposals around various venues in Guadalajara. At our last meeting in December, he greeted us with a big grin on his face and announced that his proposal for a solo show had been accepted at the Palacio de la Cultura y Los Congress (PALCCO).