The Saint Louis University Museum of Art will present Mark Making: Prints from Wildwood Press, which showcases large-scale works by artists from Wildwood Press, a St. Louis based printmaking studio, which was founded by Master Printmaker Maryanne Ellison Simmons, M.F.A. An opening reception for the exhibition will begin at 6 p.m. Sept 28 at the museum.
This extraordinary exhibition features works by Anne Appleby, Michele Oka Doner, Eva Lundsager, Erin McKenny, Casey Rae, Linda Schwarz, Jerald Ieans, Josely Carvalho, Mary Judge, Michael Berkhemer, Valerie Hammond, Yizhak Elyashiv, David Scanavino, Juan Sanchez and David Shapiro, as well as the newest Wildwood Press collaboration, Natural Curiosities by Jane Hammond.
As the exhibition illustrates, artists from around the world have come St. Louis to work with Simmons at Wildwood Press. Most of the artists represented in this exhibition have returned a number of times to continue previous projects, begin new ones and to further explore the possibilities of what a print can be. Noted for its custom papermaking and large-scale printmaking, Wildwood Press creates prints as large as 5 feet by 10 feet on an etching press.
The exhibition offers a visual summation of Simmons's approach to the art of printmaking. The collaborations involving Simmons and a host of artists illustrate the range and limitless possibilities of Wildwood Press and showcase the act of printmaking itself. For Simmons, the medium of printmaking is one of ongoing invention and experimentation without boundaries of definition or category. The goal of Wildwood Press is to produce a variable edition in which each print, while clearly related, is unique. Ultimately, the process expands the idea of what a print can be. She does not treat the printing press as a tool for mechanical reproduction, but rather as a tool for making a mark.
"If the role of the contemporary artist is to show us something that we don't know or to show us something that we do know in a way that we've never seen, then the role of printer/publisher of contemporary prints is to facilitate the possible," Simmons notes. "When the collaborative process is working at its best, both the artist and the printer teach each other something new with every project - a principle embraced at Wildwood Press."
ABOUT MARYANNE ELLISON SIMMONS
Simmons herself is a master printer and artist receiving a B.F.A. from the University of Michigan. After a 20-year hiatus in which Simmons raised and focused on her family and her husband's professional baseball career, she returned to her art. That is when Simmons entered the graduate printmaking program at Washington University, St. Louis, and studied under the direction of printmakers Peter Marcus and Joan Hall, leaders in experimental printmaking in the country. Through the 1980s and 1990s Marcus and Hall fostered a successful project with professional artists called Collaborative Printmaking Workshop, later called Island Press after a printing press developed by Marcus, capable of producing prints of a large scale. Simmons earned her M.F.A. in printmaking in 1992, and four years later, was named Master Printer of Island Press, That same year, she founded Wildwood Press, her own collaborative studio.