Story posted September 25, 2006
"Prints are in many ways the most democratic visual medium," writes David P. Becker in his introduction to The Imprint of Place: Maine Printmaking 1800-2005. As a curator who has worked in two of New England's more prestigious art collections — Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University's Fogg Art Museum — Becker should know.
In conjunction with The Maine Print Project (the largest collaborative fine-arts project in Maine's history) and its innovative programming celebrating two centuries of Maine printmaking, Becker has put together in one volume the first chronological survey of the subject, revealing the state's rich tradition of printmaking and its history within the arts.
The Maine Print Project, sponsored by most Maine art museums, will present exhibitions and lectures statewide.
"Because the Bowdoin College Museum of Art is closed and other major institutions were putting together an exhibition, I thought it would be a good idea to create a book about the history of Maine prints," notes Curator Alison Ferris, who coordinated production of the 135-page book. "I wanted to address not only the works in our collection, but those in many collections in Maine."
Ferris enlisted leading print expert Becker, a member of the Bowdoin class of 1970 and longtime overseer emeritus, to provide the book's written overview and context for Maine printmaking.
Like The Maine Print Project exhibits, Becker's book showcases a variety of themes and artistic techniques, revealing the wealth of prints that have been inspired by and portray the Maine scene and experience.
"It is hoped that the richness of the tradition of printmaking in the state will be readily apparent in the selection illustrated in this book — a hint of the infinite variety of styles, subject matter, and technical approaches that may provoke viewers to look further for themselves," Becker writes. "The extraordinary wealth of print collections in Maine may be gleaned from the wide range of repositories from which the illustrations have been gathered, and they are supplemented by several outside the state."
Eight of the illustrations in the book reproduce works from the collection of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, including two from the Museum's complete archive of the prints produced at the Vinalhaven Press. (The exhibition "Vinalhaven Press Prints from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art Collection" will be exhibited at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockport, October 21-December 16, 2006.)
Bowdoin Professor of Studio Art Thomas Cornell has been a major force in printmaking in Maine — and nationally — for over 40 years. Cornell's prints are included in several exhibitions in The Maine Print Project and in The Imprint of Place. Read the full story.
Bowdoin-connected artists represented in Becker's book include Tom Cornell, Richard E. Steele Professor of Studio Art (see sidebar); Anne Harris, former visiting assistant professor of art; Anna Hepler, visiting assistant professor of art; David Driskell H'89, former visiting professor of art; Cadwallader Washburn H'47; and William Zorach H'58. The book was edited by Lucie Teegarden, director of publications emerita.
The New York Times previews The Maine Print Project in its Sunday, September 24, 2006, arts section. The article by Deborah Weisgall calls Becker's book "sumptuous." (Read the article. Registration required.)
The book and The Maine Print Project have also received widespread attention due in large part to an August Associated Press article by Jerry Harkavy. The story appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, (Medford, Oregon) Mail-Tribune, (Tinley Park, Ill.) Daily Southtown, Foxnews.com, and even the Shanghai Daily, among many other media outlets.
David P. Becker is the author of several books and exhibition catalogs on prints and printmaking, and of numerous articles, book reviews, and lectures on printmaking and book illustration.
He is the author of four catalogs published by the Bowdoin College Museum of Art: Collecting for a College: Gifts from David P. Becker (1995); Vinalhaven at Bowdoin: One Press, Multiple Impressions (1992); Old Master Drawings at Bowdoin College (1985); and 500 Years of Printmaking: Prints and Illustrated Books at Bowdoin College (1978). He currently serves as a research fellow for illustrated books in the Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He lives in Portland, Maine.
Visit Down East Books for more information about The Imprint of Place: Maine Printmaking 1800-2005.