River Poems grew out of the artist’s first project at Wingate Studio, Calligraphy, in which she developed a customized and unconventional use of the intaglio process. Each monotype begins with a colorful arrangement of chine collé cut outs sent through the press and adhered to a backing sheet. The artist then methodically fills the press bed with a selection of shaped plates and the paper is sent through the press once more to emboss the collage, creating a composite image.
While the Calligraphy portfolio was born out of developing and learning how to employ this new technique, River Poems is the fluent expression of ideas that comes with knowing a process well. The artist recycles some of the original plate forms, which directly reference memories, genealogy and every day objects, and has added over 50 new glyphs that are looser and more self-referential in meaning: two hands and a thick horizontal wavy line are forms that appear in the artist’s sculptural work, some abstract shapes are informed by studio scraps and debris, while others take their form from specialized studio tools. The structured plate arrangements are juxtaposed with lyrical paper form compositions, which describe space, place, celestial and mythical forms.
Unlike Calligraphy, the artist has chosen to give River Poems an overarching structure. The prints were created as pairs that address certain topics or ideas—debris, void, the studio, writing, painting—and often a topic would be re-explored in another diptych, almost rhythmically. The artist has created the pairs along a time continuum beginning in the center with one half moving back into the past and the other moving forward into the future.
In the studio
The series Calligraphy, 2017, was created with an atypical use of the intaglio process wherein the artist cut over 100 glyphs from copper plates on a bandsaw. For each monotype the artist began by methodically filling the press bed with a selection of shaped plates onto which she would then arrange colorful chine collé cut outs, and send through the press under a backing sheet to create collage over embossment.
Drawing from memories, genealogy, and the day-to-day, the artist creates symbols and characters, forming her own pseudo-calligraphy practice that is both deeply personal and relatable. A red bounding box is appropriated from Chinese calligraphy practice books, a long upside down “U” embodies the hair of two close relatives, the shape of the tab that tears
off the top of Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags is what it is—and something that holds great significance for the artist and many working mothers. The shaped plates are composed according to a loose narrative and with physical spaces in mind: imagined landscapes or interiors that are purposefully arranged but not intended to be on display – a storage unit, a suitcase, a tomb.
This structured approach of plate arrangement is counterbalanced by the immediate and intuitive process of cutting and composing imagery from paper. The paper forms convey movement and temperament, are heaving, deadpan, weightless, graceful, funny. Together they create a second composition, partially concealing the narrative formed by the copper plate symbols. The third and final composition emerges from the unforeseeable overlap of the plate formations and chine collé forms, and is revealed only once the piece is complete.
Elizabeth Atterbury (b 1982, West Palm Beach, FL) is known for her sculptures and photographs that explore the authority of the photographic image and it’s ability to both describe and conceal. Her iconography is derived from both personal experiences and ubiquitous cultural symbols. Solo exhibitions include Mrs. (Queens), Document (Chicago), The Colby College Museum of Art (Waterville, ME) and kijidome (Boston). She has been in two person and group exhibitions at the Portland Museum of Art (Portland, ME), Kate Werble (New York), Et al. Etc (San Francisco), and Bodega (New York) among others. She received her BA from Hampshire College and her MFA from MassArt.