Printmakers reveal 'voice of the people' in group show at Emergent

Eight members from Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative display varied works at Short North gallery Emergent Art & Craft

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
“The Disciple Beloved by the King” by Kit Vasey aka Houndsaint, linoleum cut with watercolor.

In addition to serving as the president of Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative, Karen Albanese Campbell volunteers with local refugee organizations, providing rides to appointments for people who were forced to leave their home countries. Over the summer, she also housed a refugee for a month.  

These firsthand experiences with refugees, along with her son’s recent travels in Kyrgyzstan, have begun to show up in Campbell’s art prints. “I've been doing a lot of work about displaced people and barriers and boundaries and people sleeping outside,” Campbell said earlier this week, pointing to a series of prints hanging at Emergent Art & Craft in the Short North, some of which resemble undulating mountainous landscapes. “I started getting more and more into the layers of symbolism, with mountains being the thing that you have to pass through to get to the next country, and how it represents a border, and how beautiful they are but how completely incomprehensible they are.”

"Looking for the Horizon," collagraph by Karen Albanese Campbell

In “Farther Away Than Before,” Campbell took two different woodcut monotype prints of colorful mountains, cut them apart, then affixed them to the canvas with glue and gold thread. Others are collagraphs, a technique that gives the prints an embossed look with “moody mixtures of colors,” she said. 

“When I look at this kind of landscape, I think, what would I do if I had to find a place for my children to sleep in that kind of scenery?” Campbell said. 

Campbell’s prints are just a sample of the work on display at Emergent, which is showing pieces by eight of Phoenix Rising’s 12 core members. The artist-run printmaking co-op, which originated in 1998 and now calls Downtown’s Warehouse District home, exhibits group work annually in addition to providing workshops and other educational programming.  

While the medium of printmaking connects the work hanging on the walls at Emergent, each artist’s distinctive style is immediately apparent. Kit Vasey, who also goes by Houndsaint, places greyhound-inspired characters in brightly colored scenes reminiscent of medieval woodcuts. In “The Disciple Beloved by the King” and “Breastplate,” the CCAD grad surrounds the dog-like figures with religious imagery.  

Elsewhere, Colombia native and Ohio State MFA grad Eliana Calle-Saari comments on the immigrant experiences through a striking series of black-and-white relief prints. On the opposite wall, Alana Hiser explores feminist ideas in “For Sad Clothes,” a silkscreen print with oil pencil depicting a frowning, anthropomorphic clothing iron on fire, and “You Could at Least Do the Dishes,” a relief print with a similarly sad-faced griddle engulfed in flames. 

“There's this common thread in a lot of printmakers’ work, and that's the humanity of it,” said Emergent owner Sarah Ivancic. “A lot of the work is about processing and experiencing things, whatever the artist is thinking about, whether it be environmental issues or refugees or feminism. There's this relatability that's present.” 

According to Campbell, that relatability and approachability has been present since the beginning of the medium. “The history of printmaking was always meant to be the voice of the people,” Campbell said.