Exchange portfolios have had a rich history in printmaking for many years. Traditionally each artist agrees to create an edition large enough to supply one print for each participant, plus some extras. Organizers of the exchange collate the prints, create a portfolio to house the works, and then return the project to each artist. A limited number of portfolios are made available for sale in order to cover project costs such as portfolio box making and shipping. Each exchange is unique in its thematic vision, participants, and diversity of technique.
Historically as one of the most collaborative and democratic art forms, printmaking has been the ideal medium for the tradition. With the power of the multiple, printmaking allows for artists to share and collect each other’s work without constraints of location. Ultimately, these exchanges function like a time capsule, both establishing and archiving a dialogue between artists exploring similar themes within the same medium at a specific point in time.
While paper is the base for a vast majority of fine art prints, it is often overlooked in the conversation of contemporary printmaking. In an effort to expand and explore the relevance of paper in contemporary art, we organized Extra Pulp, an exchange portfolio for papermakers, at IS Projects, a printmaking and book-arts studio in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, founded by Ingrid in 2014.
The impetus for the portfolio came after a conversation with a Florida–based paper artist sharing his observations that when entering his paper pieces into exhibitions, he felt the need to print onto them in order to legitimize his paper as an artwork. IS Projects is focused on elevating the South Florida art scene while contributing to national and international conversation in printmaking and book arts. So when this concern was brought to our attention, we realized the need for a paper-forward project in our community. Extra Pulp is an invitational exchange portfolio, for which artists were encouraged to explore pulp painting, watermarks, inclusions, blowouts, collage, and even treating paper as objects. While traditional methods of printmaking are present in some of the pieces, they are minimal if not absent in most of the submitted works, thus making pulp the primary material for image creation. Participating artist Sarah Rose Lejeune explains, “This portfolio heightens paper as a primary medium, not secondary to print or paint, but preeminent and rich with possibility.”1
Several paper artists included in Extra Pulp had never editioned sheets and the majority had never participated in an exchange portfolio. Though paper is traditionally created in multiples, the fluidity of pulp does not easily lend itself to being editioned. One of the portfolio artists Karen Hardy expounds, “The repeatable mark remains a constant challenge to one’s dexterity and vigilant eye. The edition requires a deep familiarity with paper pulp to know the right texture, the perfect degree of liquidity or absorbency, how and when to place and remove stencils, how to coerce the paper pulp to do what is unnatural to it.”
Extra Pulp presents a diverse group of twenty prominent, East-Coast papermakers and paper artists: Anna Hendrick Karpatkin Benjamin, Jazmine Catasús, Nicole Donnelly, Sue Carrie Drummond, Tatiana Ginsberg, Lisa Haque, Karen Hardy, Kyle Holland, Lucy Holtsnider, Hong Hong, Amy Jacobs, Jeanne Jaffe, Sarah Rose Lejeune, Cara Lynch, Akemi Martin, Saul Melman, Ingrid Schindall, Beth Sheehan, Sarika Sugla, and Anna Tararova. Whether recreating sacred spaces through ritualistic, hand-cut patterns, or using the surface treatment of pulp as a means to investigate emotional damage and repair to the body, each artist’s relationship to pulp breaks new ground in this exciting exchange.
At its core, printmaking is about creating an impression by transferring imagery from a matrix, which can also be accomplished with pulp. In particular, blow-out techniques develop not unlike reduction screen printing. Anna Hendrick Karpatkin Benjamin’s contribution to Extra Pulp plays with intricate geometry using blowouts and pulp painting. She embedded a cotton blown-out image between two layers of overbeaten abaca and then painted linen pulp through a stencil. “The image explores a centrally placed pattern that evolves as it extends through each spoke,” states Benjamin.
An important consideration in each artist’s process was their choice of pulp. Kyle Holland appropriates text from online hunting forums consisting primarily of anecdotes written by hunters who anonymously confess to having fearful experiences in the woods at night. Holland made his portfolio edition from beaten Wrangler jeans. “I associate [Wrangler jeans] with men who embody the archetype of hegemonic masculinity: a dominant, idealized man to which I, and the men who publicly post about their fears on hunting forums, fall victim to. Beating these articles of clothing into pulp...is my subversive act against this social structure.”
While pulp painting and blowouts can be said to mimic monotype or screen printing in application, a watermark is unique to the papermaking process. Sue Carrie Drummond’s work often plays with exposure and concealment of the body through her work’s materiality. She shares, “Viewers are more akin to ‘readers’ as this portfolio will often function as a collaborative book, observed through page turns. I was interested in creating an image that would change depending on how it was held, playing with light and translucency.” She explains, “I chose to create the bodice as a watermark in order to achieve a ‘reverse blowout.’ In doing this, the gauzy cotton overlay of the corset watermark suggests the sheerness of lace, enhancing the materiality of the piece. The natural tone of the abaca peeks through the veil of cotton, alluding to the body and the playful ways lace reveals and conceals flesh.” Watermarks and inclusions expose the delicacy of paper, highlighting ways in which pulp can be worked in, on, and through. One of the most fragile pieces in Extra Pulp is Tatiana Ginsberg’s, created using thread and ribbon embedded into punched tissue-weight paper. “Separating stitch and thread, I use a sewing machine to playfully make marks that suggest sewing without serving any practical function,” notes Ginsberg. “The thread, ribbons, and perforations are intentionally slight. I want to preserve the inherent delicacy of these thin sheets and draw attention to the paper itself as I work with it.”
In Beth Sheehan’s piece, Borrowed, photographs are veiled beneath an abaca sheet and then partially revealed through the blowout process. Sheehan’s work often questions how the authenticity of memory can affect our personal narratives. “The images are reproductions of photographs I took responding to areas of my childhood landscape that encouraged a sense of borrowed nostalgia.” Sheehan continues, “The text of the blowout is excerpted from Charles Yu’s novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. The letterforms act as a physical window to the images of the past, but the passage also encourages meditations on memory as multiverse.”
Artists in Extra Pulp come to paper from varying backgrounds and perspectives. While some artists have devoted decades to their papermaking, others dip in and out of the discipline from other practices. Jeanne Jaffe, whose body of work focuses on paper-cast sculptures, created interactive spider puppets for the project. The spiders, made from abaca and cotton, were assembled from individual pieces cast from stencils. Each spider becomes a unique character as the irregularities in the pulp and casting process surface.
Similarly, Sarah Rose Lejeune approached her piece as a continuation of a series of handmade paper tickets she began a year ago. “The original series...took a more sculptural form as a stack of tickets, a re-presentation of a pile accumulated at the end of a night spent at an arcade or a carnival. [For Extra Pulp] I was interested in readdressing this piece...by approaching multiplicity as an edition instead of an accumulation and using two dimensionality to suggest the sculptural. I see Admit One as expressing the ubiquity of paper.”
When we originally reached out to the artists for participation in Extra Pulp, we faced very little hesitation. As artists ourselves, we understand the longing to engage with other creatives and contribute to something larger than our individual practices. Benjamin agrees, “Working within the tradition of exchange portfolios helps create community and provides an opportunity to experiment with ideas yet to be explored. The most exciting reward is the collection of works produced by other artists.”
Upon the project’s completion, we exhibited Extra Pulp at IS Projects during the Small Press Fair South Florida ’19. It was later purchased by University of Miami Special Collections. Several participating artists have expressed an interest in exhibiting the portfolio at organizations with which they are affiliated. There is a want for collaboration through portfolio exchanges in the papermaking world and we would love to see more exchanges organized in the community to continue bringing paper to the forefront.
1. This quote by Sarah Rose Lejeune and all other quotations by portfolio artists in this article are taken from artist statements that accompany the Extra Pulp exchange portfolio.