Trained in the trade of construction, the act of building and developing is paramount to Jacob’s process. Making screen prints begins with a planned image, and steps through a serial process of making it real. This development includes careful planning, assess- ment, and problem solving on the way. While these prints include often 6-12 layers of ink, the result is an image that includes gures and other physical forms owing together as to illustrate the nebulous makeup of our memory. Sharp abstractions cut scenes into fragments by which we imagine ourselves interacting with another human. Jacob’s MFA thesis exhibit can be viewed in Vermillion, SD on April 4th through April 8th.
Jacob Dugas - A Space of Possibilities - Screenprint - 28x34" - 2015
Jacob Dugas - That Kind of Conversation - Screenprint - 11.5x19" - 2014
Jacob Dugas - Now I Am - Screenprint - 20x25" - 2015
Jacob Dugas - Composure; Being - Screenprint - 14x18.5" - 2015
Jacob Dugas - Distance; Space - Screenprint - 28x34" - 2015
Klaire’s history with costume design and writing allow her to carefully develop scenes in which her subject exhibits a duality of character. Fishnet stockings and rubber gloves appear together to suggest the absurdity of split expectations of femininity. The female subject is clothed in evidence of work, as are the paintings themselves, carefully rendered over 6 feet tall.
Klaire’s work genuinely approaches feminist topics. While a viewer may be tempted to dismiss feminist artwork as propaganda, the eld reminds viewers of the di erent ways men and women are perceived as social, professional, and romantic characters. Klaire will graduate with her M.F.A. in painting from USD in Spring 2016.
Referencing the trend of “New Domesticity”, Sarah’s work curtails off of the contemporary pinterest-esque mentality that women are expected to develop domestic skills, and frame their lives on instagram to appear cleaner, more polished, and crafty. Sarah’s bright colors and oral forms seem akin to wallpapers or Rosemâling while dripping paint and calligraphic text scrubbed away suggest a more honest or even melancholy undertone.
As is common among successful artists, Susan’s career at the local library signi cantly informs the content of her work. She nds great value in having a positive e ect on her community, and when she returns to her home studio, she re ects on her experience, using materials found in her environment to create works that respond to and function within her immediate reality. For example, her work titled “The Fabric of Society” seen on page 10 begins with pages of a book so named, and eloquently removes from the book and adds growth to it, suggesting the uctuating state of interpersonal reality. This metaphor is extended further into the frame, giving the viewer reason to believe that any assessment of reality becomes antiquated when realized as such. Susan’s work can be viewed in Brookings at the South Dakota Art Museum starting in July; see the gallery calendar on page 30.
On a blustery Brookings day, The Local Artist visited printmaker Andrew Kosten in his basement studio, affectionately called Gum Pal Press. Andrew surrounds himself with curiosities, collectibles, and items of nostalgia. It’s a comforting space, humming with possibility and prints in various stages of the printmaking process. A self-proclaimed “traditional” printmaker, Andrew spoke about how process and content collide, and the challenges and opportunities of being a full time artist.
TLA: Can you walk us through your art making process?
AK: I start in sketchbooks predominantly with pen and ink. I revise and redraw in larger sketchbooks, until I think an image is worth the investment and time to commit to a plate. The permanence of the materials is a factor. I work only with copper, using a process called aquatint to etch texture into the plate. Then you can manipulate that texture with a scraping tool. Finally, I rub ink onto the final plate, and press that ink into paper. The whole process can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a month to complete an edition.
TLA: What makes you want to have multiples? Why not just draw?
AK: Why not? I love the history of printmaking. The idea of being at a factory, cranking out multiples of a product. The embossment in the paper… the feel and presence of paper… printmakers are really geeky, they nerd out on process. I’ve tended to do small to intermediate sized prints. Something that can be held in your hand and have multiples of too. I just loved that. You’re investing so much time into this one thing, so you get to have multiples without it being a reproduction. An original isn’t just one. You can have an edition of originals. In undergrad I did mostly drawing and painting, where you have one-of-one, the original piece. I was an observational painter and I was struggling with content and how that translated into painting. So, I stumbled onto printmaking totally by accident. It was my senior year and I had to take an elective class. I had this whole separate body of work in my sketchbooks that was figurative, satirical, dark, and very linear and textural. Printmaking was a better medium to explore that in.
TLA: With all the different processes you use, how do you structure a workday, week, month?
AK: I go about it the same way you would go about a job. I wake up pretty early. Drink coffee. Come down here and get to work. At times it can be a little more, or less structured, but if you’ve got plates you’re working on, it’s all day and all night. I’m lucky to be able to do that. Be your own boss, and be able to work as an artist full time. I can’t imagine a more fulfilling life. It’s been a lot of fun.
TLA: What advice would you give to someone dreaming of a life of making artwork full time? What essentials need to be in their process?
AK: If you’re planning to be an artist full time, you’re going to have to really work towards that, with no guarantees of any success at all. It’s a real dice roll. You’ve got to be able to put on a number of different hats. You’ve got to work the part time job, and be able to do something you don’t want to do for a number of years in order to finally realize that goal. I’ve always had a pretty good work ethic. I’ve never really taken a whole lot for granted. A lot of that comes from a driving sense of purpose, like if I’m not doing this, then who am I? What am I doing? I was never able to really find much purpose in life if I weren’t making something. There are sacrifices you’ve got to make. And I sacrificed a lot, but I’ve always been pretty singularly focused on one thing. Networking is definitely a must as an artist. Keeping in touch with a network of printmakers has been really crucial for me. It’s such a balance, and you’ve got to stick your neck out and be bold. You hear in school about being rejected, if you apply to 10 shows and get into 2 of them that’s a pretty good statistic. Rejection can be a hard thing to deal with.
TLA: You seem to have an overwhelming commitment to your art. When did that commitment really click?
AK: I believe in the idea that you are who you are due to the specific nature of your background and upbringing. In my formative years, as a four or five year old kid, I was always drawing grotesques, figuratively. It’s just what I did. It was something I naturally gravitated to. Even dealing with irony. I was in an environment that cultivated that. My parents didn’t try to discourage me. They said, “ok, this is what you’re good at. You should do this more.” I was really fortunate. I started drawing in sketchbooks and then teachers, students, and people would ask me, “Hey man, you’re the guy that draws in those sketchbooks. Can I see that?” So, it gave me a sense of identity. It let me know that this is my place. This is what I should be doing. In sketchbooks I was dealing with political satire, grotesques, and so discovering printmaking was big too. It gave me an avenue. As an artist you’ve got to try and keep it fresh. Stay interested, engaged, and consistent in your practice; paying attention to the evolution of the work.
TLA: Looking at your content, it seems that these whimsical character portraits are a recurring motif. Some have dark undertones and some seem more playful. Where does this content come from?
AK: You look at the world, and it’s an incredibly sad, yet hilarious place. If you think about all the horror, yet all the wonderful things that happen in the world, it’s both ironic and comical. Why not make uplifting work? Because tragedy is there. There’s a juxtaposition of the dark and comical. It’s not pure, over the top pessimism. It’s the comic, yet tragic element that’s more reflective of the way the world really is. In terms of where a character comes from, a lot is just free flow of consciousness and having fun drawing. I try to embody formal elements in my work that are tied to beauty. Traditional notions of drawing like naturalism. I harken back to Daumier and Thomas Nast, Goya. Old lithographers, satirists, and cartoonists of the 1800s – early 1900s. There’s continuity from what I was doing, as a kid, drawing funny, quirky characters and fantastical beasts. Certain elements come from everyday interactions, but I try to let it come from the imagination as much as possible. I want to think about the collective unconscious and how that relates to popular culture or the political environment. They all sort of tell their own unique story, without giving you a sequential narrative you might see in a children’s book.
TLA: You’ve talked about potentially illustrating a children’s book. Do you ever work with connections and narratives to unify your prints?
AK: Not always. Sometimes it’s more of a random association. I’m combining elements with a sort of playfulness. Configuring elements that might suggest a story. A lot of my characters are funny and sad at the same time. They look like proposed mascots for a fast food restaurant or something that didn’t make the cut. Oftentimes, the meaning is about the associations you can make or connect. I like to hear people talk about them. When I travel and sell my work, and some of the things people say, it’s more reflective of their experiences and how that contrasts with what you were thinking when you were making it.
TLA: As you continue to make a body of work, do you see a predominant theme emerge?
AK: Collectively there’s a uniform theme. It’s about time and place. When you look back at older work, at the time in your life, in hindsight it can make more sense. There’s repetition of objects or ornamentation and unexpected elements that become an overarching theme. Sometimes, like in “Neighborhood” (Page 18), both Diana and myself are really thinking about living in this very location, in this house, in this town, in this state, and the things that describe South Dakota. There’s a remoteness. You see a lot of wooden structures. You can be driving on the interstate and it’s the old homesteads and billboards.
TLA: You’ve lived Tennessee, California, Indiana, South Dakota, St. Louis. Does location have an effect on you and your work?
AK: Yes. It was a curious identity to be Jewish in Memphis coming from a city. It was definitely cosmopolitan, but you didn’t meet a whole lot of farm folks. Up here (in South Dakota), on the other hand, every odd person has had some experience with agriculture, or you can drive a couple miles in any direction and literally be on a farm. These characters that I come up with reflect Memphis in a way because there’s a higher percentage of truly unique and eccentric personalities. It’s this particular vibe. I definitely think that being in South Dakota has informed some of the wooden structures (in some of my prints), and the shacks that are falling down. I’ve always loved texture and so the wood grain helps. When I was accepted to USD, I really liked that there was a calmness and a quietness about it here. Some of the grads took me out at like 2-3 in the morning and I saw someone’s window was open. It was in the summer, but I thought, “people actually leave their windows wide open here? I’ve never seen that before.” So I decided hey, I could maybe do this. I knew it would be conducive to a work intensive environment.
TLA: Asking from a buyer’s standpoint: What value is someone going to get from owning and living with your work? What’s the value of owning an original artwork?
AK: Art has to be something that you can live with and be able to digest. For some people my work can be really uncomfortable, but it caters to a particular market that appreciates a certain aesthetic pertaining to naturalism and drawing. Maybe it’s an interesting conversation piece, or an appreciation for a certain kind of humor.
I’m currently collecting old technology. I like the idea of taking these arcane, useless objects and putting them together to make something out of them. Antiques, personal mementos, old phones…objects that have a certain presence or aesthetic. I heard this story on NPR about the craftsmanship in making paintbrushes in Japan. Objects are thought of having a spirit of their own. It really resonated with me, because do you want the stuff around you to challenge your thinking? Or do you want it to make you feel comfortable?
TLA: You’ve said that printmaking is somewhat of an obsolete medium as far as the public is concerned. When you talk about your work with people, are they able to relate?
AK-Your audience has a lot to do with it. Having someone look at your work can be sort of a lonely experience when you don’t think that they have a reference point. Whereas someone who is familiar with old lithographs from the 1800’s might see that it’s made now but they look at it and say, “Oh this harkens back to Punch Magazine” versus someone who would look at it and say “That’s just really creepy. Where did you come up with that?” But if your audience knows history or are familiar with older methods and processes and have a drawing sensibility they can relate to your work in some way.
TLA: Are there any projects aside from your prints that you’re excited about?
AK: I’ve talked about illustrating a book or being involved in some sort of illustration which you get into publishing and distribution that would be nice. I did a series of ten prints called “Mr. Sleepy’s Friend’s and Neighbors,” which is already a book but it just not a storybook; it doesn’t have a written component to it, so there’s no reason why I couldn’t just publish this. It’s a book waiting to happen. I might be sitting on something that’s doable now. It’ll happen.
CONCLUSION: You can see Andrew’s work in the IPCNY (International Print Center of New York) Winter Show, and the “New Union, Re-Union” show at USD.