Like the first renowned printmaker Albrecht Durer centuries before her, Nebraska-based artist Karen Kunc has made her mark in printmaking including a monumental trip to Italy to practice her craft.
Last spring, Kunc, Professor of Art at University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 1983, worked as Artist in Residence at the prestigious Venice Printmaking Studio in Italy, the country where Durer famously brought the traditional communication craft into artistry. Durer’s celebrated prints reflected Biblical and dark, detailed, realistic imagery and portraiture.
Kunc’s notably organic and colorful inspiration came from what makes Venice the “City of Water.” In The Immeasurable, Kunc’s current exhibit at Anderson O’Brien Old Market, she displays the artistic results of her journey abroad, exemplifying her contemporary approach to the age-old craft.
While teaching at Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio in the early 1980s, printmaker Kunc developed an innovative wood-cut printmaking process exploring an evolutionary attitude of openness to responsive and risky process on a large scale with her use of stencils, inking and additional reduction blocks. She garnered important local and international recognition and since then has been exhibiting, lecturing and visiting as artist-in-residence around the world.
Throughout her 30 years as a printmaker, Kunc continuously refers to the natural world with her abstract, richly colored ovular forms and interconnected lines. The Immeasurable reflects the heavy influence of the watery expanses on the Midwesterner.
Upon wandering around the show at Anderson O’Brien, her first show in Omaha since 2007, a feeling of peace that only the ocean breeze brings, sweeps through
Just fifteen large pieces are included but all conspicuously represent imaginative organic imagery with her outwardly mastered capricious yet highly technical process.
The namesake, “The Immeasurable” (woodcut on Okawara paper), is effective with rich blues in waveform, and yellow patterns of sand along the bottom half. Her signature ovular forms disclose the infinite sense of nature.
Likewise, “In the Depths” (woodcut, mixed media on artists made paper of pigmented linen and kozo paper) presents yellow, blue and green patterns with rock-like forms and a central white circle appearing to be another sign of eternity.
This pattern of perpetuity is most evident in her multiple use of original print forms—also pointing to and playing with the traditional reproductive process. “Aqua Alta Series (installation),” “Aqua Alta (book)” and “Aqua Alta Series (individual)” all began with the same series of six woodcuts, but were developed differently with watercolor, acrylic, ink and Wax on Japanese papers. Each series provide distinctive feelings of botanical and oceanic abstraction, rich colors and expression, yet maneuver with similar intentions and foundation.
Kunc’s expressionism is keen in “Aqua Regia” and “Smog Rain,” two more darkly toned, brown and gray colored pieces with dripping ink and fading patterns. The ovular forms are still clear. “Aqua Regia”’s central structure is a tree-form perhaps signifying the “tree of life”—the perhaps minor yet ongoing humanity amongst the infinite natural world.
She uses others words to forward her articulation with her smaller pieces like “Fractured Terrain” (line etching, polymer, woodcut and letterpress). The bright orange sky, yellow orbs and blue organic lines meet with Denise Levertov’s poem “Sojourns in the Parallel World,” reading: “A world parallel to our own but overlapping we call it ‘Nature’; only reluctantly admitting ourselves to be ‘Nature’ too.”
Kunc, too, boasts strong written articulation with her autobiography, artist statement and technical statement, proving her coming-of-age master presence in the practice and self-knowledge.
She writes: “I hope to make conceptually urgent statements that are relevant, visually memorable images as a response to the threat and benevolence of Nature…My creative prints are a means to stake my claim as an innovator, to provide a lasting impact and example, to continue to be a luminous personality in contemporary printmaking, with accomplishments made largely on my own…”
Kunc, an continuing international printmaking force, moves on to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville as Visiting Artist in February and to present at the Southern Graphics Council International Conference “Navigating Currents” in New Orleans in March.
The Immeasurable is on view at Anderson O’Brien Fine Art Old Market, 1108 Jackson Street, through January 29. Visit aobfineart.com for more information or call 884.0911. To see more of Kunc’s work visit Karen-kunc.com.