The PRINTed Poem
Silicon Valley Printmakers
at Works San José, June 1998, and
Manor House Gallery, August 1998
by Yeung Ha and Grace Purpura

Some time ago, in October, l996, a group of printmakers, all members of South Bay Women's Caucus for Art, met for the first time at the urging of Yeung Ha to discuss their mutual concerns about monotype with mixed media. They began meeting on a regular basis to share their work and ideas in the hope of pushing and stretching the boundaries of traditional printmaking. Each artist brought a unique style and orientation to the group. With monotype as the primary medium, artists experimented with the use of collage, assemblage, computer graphics, drawing and painting media---imposing no rules except that monotype be involved. Inspiration, dialogue, support, critical feedback, and friendship grew between the artists in in the group. We named ourselves, Silicon Valley Printmakers. The work has expanded and changed as a result of the collaboration of ideas and energy. This exhibition, which is culled from a variety of strengths that each artist brings, was born of this collaboration.

The exhibit theme, PRINTed Poem, follows the direction of the body of work which was being created. Inherent in this concept of PRINTed Poem is the broad definition of poem...

"po em (po'em) n. a creation, an object, or an experience having beauty suggestive of poetry."
The American Heritage Dictionary

That the artist should be interested in the word is not unusual. Word images and picture images are indeed one and the same in many cultures. For example, Chinese characters or pictographs which have their own aesthetic or beauty, Egyptian hieroglyphs which tell a story, and the calligraphy or beautiful writing of the Persians.

Within the pieces in this exhibit, artists used original poetry and/or the poetry of others, including proverbs and quotes from various sources. One artist reveals that her poetry is limited to the name of the piece. The poetry within the work extends and enhances meaning, inspiration, visual expression and adds subtle complexity and texture. As verbiage is present in our visual experience; so, poetry is reflected by the visual artist.


A monotype is a single print created by transferring to paper an image that has been formed on a stone, screen or plate of plastic, metal, glass or other flat surface. Transfer is accomplished by hand rubbing or by using an press. As the most painterly and spontaneous of the printmaking processes, monotype is a medium which invites experimentation. The monotype is a unique image where none of the image is from a repeatable matrix. A monoprint is a unique image where part of the image is repeatable on a fixed matrix and part is not.

The seventeenth century Italian artist, Giovanni Castiglione, is credited with developing the monotype as early as 1640. In the 19th century, a select but distinguished group of artists explored the potential of the monotype process. Notable among them have been William Blake, Edgar Degas, and Paul Gauguin. The twentieth century produced numerous artists who expanded the technigue's possibilities. Some of the more famous of these include Mary Frank, Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Diebencorn, Henri Matisse, Nathan Olivera, Pablo Picasso, Pat Steir, and Joe Zirker.

During the last twenty years, monotype printing has enjoyed a revival. The spontaneous process, the variety of approaches, and medley of materials possible are attractive to the contemporary artist. Water and oil based inks and paints, water soluble crayons, pencils, and pastels can all be used as media with any variety of tools. The working process may be the additive approach (drawing on the surface to make dark marks against a light ground) or subtractive approach (coating or rolling the surface with ink and wiping out forms to create light areas against a dark background).

Friends by Yeung Ha
monotype with mixed media, 24 1/2" x 33 1/2" © 1997

Untilted - Boat Series by Sandra Beard
Monotype, 6" x 12" © 1997.

The monotype is frequently used as a basis for further exploration with colored pencils, pastels, printed text, computer and photo imagery, to produce a myriad of results. The transfer process leads to unexpected results, encouraging dialogue between artist and print during the development of an image. The current postmodern ethic of appropriation and hybrid media is one of the reasons the monotype is favored by the contemporary artist.

Silicon Valley Printmakers include Barbara Abbot, Sandra Beard, Kate Curry Yeung Ha, Ellen Kieffer, Valerie Magee, Judith Juntura Miller, Grace Purpura, and Mercy Smullen.

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