New Etchings (The post with all the pretty pictures)

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New Mexico Whiptails

New Mexico Whiptails
Soft ground etching
Image: 9 x 7 inches
Paper: 14 x 12 1/4 inches
Edition: 13

New Mexico Whiptails are an all-female species of lizard which is able to reproduce through parthenoenesis.  Despite the species ability to reproduce asexually, New Mexico Whiptail lizards will still engage in mating rituals, and are nicknamed,”lesbian lizards.”

This etching is a reproduction of a graphite drawing I made and decided to make into an etching after-the-fact.  This essentially meant I had to re-draw it three times.

Black Salve

Black Salve

Black Salve is a controversial topical cancer treatment marketed as an alternative to surgery or radiation.  As an escharotic, it burns through skin tissue and is used to target conditions such as melanoma.  The effectiveness of this treatment is questionable, due to the inability to guarantee that all of the cancerous cells have been removed.  Additionally, use of black salve has been documented to cause serious scarring, burns, and open wounds.

One of the ingredients in black salve is extract from the plant Bloodroot, a poisonous emetic.  The flower gets its name from the red color of its juices, and the seeds are spread by ants.

Milk and Oleander

Milk and Oleander

Both this etching and the previous etching, Black Salve, are part of a series of prints and drawings I’ve been working on this year entitled, “Poetics of Blood and Milk.”  I will provide a more in depth description once I release the series of drawings, but it is based on the antiquated idea that damage to the breast from cancer, or removal of breast tissue from mastectomies and lumpectomies also caused breast milk to go rancid or pass the cancer to the nursing infant.

Oleander is one of the most poisonous, commonly grown plants and damages the central nervous system, the heart, and the gastrointestinal system.  Extracts from Oleander were once used in experimental cancer treatments, where it was proven ineffectual on cancer cells while causing serious adverse side effects to the patients.  The plant can become unruly if not pruned and is tolerant of poor soil quality as well as frost.  It was the first plant to bloom on the site of Hiroshima after it was bombed in 1945.

This etching is printed in three earth tones:  The first is a pale yellowish brown in the area of the breast, the second is a warm reddish brown where the breast and flowers are drawn, and the final plate is a cool dark brown where the hair and heavier shadows fall.

More coming soon

2017 Spring/Summer Recap

I believe the last time I wrote a post was in January, so brace yourself for a post where I get really sappy and cry too much.

It’s been a year since I acquired my Charles Brand etching press aka my baby girl.  This year has been such a blur, and has been amazing in so many ways, mostly in the form of traveling and bringing my work to cities I have never been to before.  In an effort to prevent this from turning into a giant eyeball-hemorrhaging wall of text, I’ll keep this post to a recap of my travels.  I’ll save exhibition announcements and new work for a future post.

In the spring I was a publisher at Southern Graphics Council in Atlanta and a vendor at It Came From the Bayou in Houston.  Thank you to everyone who came out to both of these events.  It’s always great to meet new printmakers, fellow printers who I’ve only interacted with through social media, and reconnect with friends and colleagues I haven’t seen in years.  If I ever question why I chose such a stress-inducing career path, I remember how y’all warm my cold, dead heart with your company, support of my work, comments about my eating habits and by telling me how cute my cat is on Instagram.  Also thank you to my friend Tim, who will probably not read this, but who always has to deal with my mental-breakdowns in that one bar on Western after I return to Chicago and get hella postpartum-y.  And while I’m at it, thank you to my friend George, who will also probably not read this, but who has to put up with my constant angst, and once tricked me into thinking Warby Parker used to print all of their receipts by hand.

Here are some highlights from my visit to Detroit and Connecticut.

Hammonasset Hideout Woodcuts

In August, I worked with Martin Mazorra at his new print shop location in Connecticut where I also ate a lot of fried seafood and ice cream.  Two of my 4-color reduction woodcuts are now available for purchase here, and two black and white prints will be released through Cannonball Press later this fall.  I can’t thank Martin enough for working 16 hour days in the studio with me every day this week.  It’s extremely difficult for me to find another human being who is willing to match my work ethic.  *high five with reflex blue stained hands*

These prints are also known as the-prints-of-many-R-Kao-firsts.  First letterpress prints.  First MDF cutz.  First Vandercook prints.  First monoprinting.

Rejection Hurts

“Rejection Hurts”
4-layer reduction woodcut, monoprint, letterpress
30 x 18 inches
Edition: 18

Inspired by OG sexter John Donne’s poem “the Flea

Poor little flea.  Spoiler alert:  It dies.

Useless facts about me:  1.  I love serifs.  2.  I love color prints which don’t have a black layer.  3.  I once had a dream where I was arguing with someone about whether 3-color or 4-color prints were better.  If that’s not proof I don’t have a life, I don’t know what is.

Available HERE.

Mourning Eyes

“Mourning Eyes”
4-layer reduction woodcut
18 x 26 inches
Edition: 18

“Mourning Eyes” is based off of paintings and jewelry that Victorians exchanged with one another and the fact that they were all going to die of TB.  This print started with the image of a lover’s or mourning eye, which were small paintings of eyes exchanged between lovers or friends during the Victorian era, combined with the memento mori hair jewelry also exchanged during that time period.  Many people are familiar with the Victorian romanticism of death, but their obsession with death grew out of society’s need to address high mortality rates from widespread diseases like tuberculosis.  I’ve also always been fascinated by death masks, but chose a more iconic mask shape to use in its stead.  The narrative I had in mind while making this print was of a woman who had many lovers, all now deceased.

I have two versions, one on pink paper, and one on white.  Available HERE.


Girl, I’ll Cover You


For one week in April, I was invited to be a visiting artist for a week at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit by professor Tyanna Buie where I worked with performance artist Chanel Matsunami Gidrea on a printmaking performance piece which debuted at Holding House, an amazing exhibition space in Detroit.

During our stay, we collaborated on woodcuts and screen prints which we used in a 45 minute long performance piece at Holding House.  The performance was a part of Power of the Press Fest organized by Signal Return.  I cannot thank professor Tyanna Buie, cellist Cecelia Sharpe, violinist Clara Hardie, Andrea Eckert and Adrienne Dunkerly at Holding House, and of course my collaborator Chanel for making this performance as successful as it was.

In addition to working on this project, Chanel and I were able to spend the week giving artist talks and working in the studios with the students.  Engaging with these students each day was one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve had as a professional artist.  I still miss and love you, CCS students.  Even if you did make fun of my dated slang.

For a full project description and more images from our performance, please click here.

The last day of our stay as visiting artists, the Power of the Press Fest held a steam roller event at Detroit’s Eastern Market where I demonstrated how to roll up a block while eating a pizza in true R. Kao classy AF teaching fashion.


Thank you all!  Please keep posted for updates SOON on what I’m currently working on as well as upcoming exhibitions.

via Lord Hobo in Boston during a Sharknado marathon


A pretty quick post about the last etching I made in 2016.  I mainly just wanted to post the video beneath, so be sure to turn the volume up, because there are few noises that are sexier than the paper coming off of a juicy aquatinted plate.  This image is a mash-up of Greek gorgons, cyclopes, mythological monsters in general, Victorian Lover’s eyes, and Memento Mori.  I made this etching to go along with three graphite drawings in a similar vein which are named after the three Gorgon sisters.  Edition of 8, $200 each.  Purchase Here.

Black and white etching
Image: 6 x 6 inches
Paper: 11 x 11 inches
Edition: 8

The video below is a print being pulled.  🙂


Hoya Plant: An exercise in neurotic behavior

I love plants.  I really love plants.  If I didn’t have such a rambunctious force of destruction masquerading as a domestic cat, my little studio apartment would be exploding with greenery.  The first plant I bought when moving to Chicago was a Hoya plant and in an open admission of bad parenting, I play favorites.  My sister recently killed her money tree plant, and for Christmas I made her this etching:  A plant that could not be killed.  Edition of 11, e-mail RaeleenKao@gmail for purchase.

Black and white etching
Image: 3 1/2 x 5 inches
Paper: 8 1/2 x 10 inches
Edition: 11

The first step is applying a hard-ground acid resist to the copper plate.  The image is drawn through the acid resist, exposing the copper underneath.  In order to capture all the detail, I use a pair of jeweler’s glasses on top of my day-to-day Coke-bottle lenses.

The entire plate is submerged in acid, which bites into the drawn lines.

Tone in etching is applied by dusting a plate with powdered rosin to create a random dot pattern, which is heat-fused to the plate and also acts as an acid resist.

Detail of rosin fused to the plate. Oooooo shiny.

Ink is applied to the plate, and transferred to pre-soaked paper under the high pressure of the etching press.

Freshly pulled print


The Visceral Hand: “Only Weeds Will Grow”

“Only Weeds Will Grow”
3-Plate etching
Image: 12 x 8 inches
Paper: 18 x 14 inches

Titled after the Victorian belief that, “When a good life was lived, flowers will grow on the deceased grave.  But on the graves of the wicked, only weeds will grow,” this three-plate etching was made for the exchange portfolio, “The Visceral Hand,” organized by Michael Weigman and Joshua Jay Johnson.  27 of these prints went directly into the portfolio, and I have 8 available artist proofs.  E-mail if you would like to reserve one.

The Visceral Hand

The imagery was inspired by Victorian hair wreaths which were built with hair from deceased family members as a memorial.  As a member of the family died, their hair would be intricately woven and added to the wreath in a bizarre sort of postmortem family tree.

Detail of hair wreath

The entire plate is coated with an acid resist and the image is drawn with an etching needle to expose the copper underneath.  When the entire plate is submerged in acid, the acid bites into the copper where the image was drawn.

Key plate before etching in acid

The blue plate was inspired by Japanese Ukiyo-E woodblock prints.

Blue layer before adding the key plate.

The fade was etched using a creep bite technique where acid is incrementally poured into a tray of water and allowed to “creep” up the plate


Each plate is inked and wiped separately, then printed one on top of another.

3-plate etching
Printing the key layer on top of the sienna and blue layers
Raeleen’s graveyard of prints

The first exhibition of the completed portfolio will open at Rivet Gallery in Columbus, OH.  Full list of participants and exhibition info Here.

December Art Fairs and Exhibitions

Aqua Art Miami : Phylogeny Contemporary

I have three drawings with Phylogeny Contemporary at Aqua Art Miami, November 30-December 4.  Happening in conjunction with Art Basel, Aqua Art Miami is partnered with the Association of Women Art Dealers and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

In Roman mythology, the Parcae were three sisters who personified childbirth and controlled the fates of both mortals and gods. Nona, whose name translates to “ninth” and represents the ninth month of pregnancy, spun the thread of life, Decima, or “tenth”, measured the thread, and Morta, the goddess of death, cut the thread, signifying the end of the person’s life.

These drawings are inspired by the Parcae and influenced by Victorian memento mori. Diseases such as tuberculosis and scarlet fever were rampant during the 1800s, and Victorian society reacted to the constant presence of death by embracing the Roman phrase memento mori, meaning “remember you will die.” This triptych references the Victorian practice of memorializing loved ones through creating jewelry, wreaths, and ink from the hair of the deceased.

Chicago Printmakers Collaborative Small Print Show

I have several prints up at the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative December 2-15.  Gallery hours are as follows:

Preview the show (shop early!):
Friday Dec 2, 12-8pm

Grand Opening Party:
Saturday & Sunday December 3 & 4, 11-7pm both days

Special extended gallery hours:
Tuesdays – Sundays 12-5pm, Dec 6-18 only

Link to Facebook event here.

Alice C Sabatini Gallery : The Printed Image

This printmaking exhibition, which opened on November 4th, was juried by Stephen Goddard, Associate Director, Senior Curator of works on paper, and Professor of art history at the Spencer Museum of Art.  The exhibition runs through December 30.  I am exhibiting two etchings, which are part of an ongoing body of work surrounding poisonous plants and flowers.

Gallery hours:  Monday-Friday: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. | Saturday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. | Sunday: 12 noon – 9 p.m.

There will be a Second Friday event on Friday, December 9, 2016 • 5-8:30 p.m.

Additional information about the exhibition is here.

Verum Ultimum Gallery

I have a couple pieces which will remain at Verum Ultimum Gallery in Portland.  Their next exhibition opens on December 10, 6-8pm.  Please contact for purchase.

The Ministering Angel of Domestic Bliss

Eight layer litho:  “The Ministering Angel of Domestic Bliss” which was part of a lithography exhibition, “The Red Death”, curated by Doug Bosley

20 1/4 x 17 1/4 inches, Edition of 12, $500


This print is part of a project documenting of the history of chemical poisoning which was inherently specific to women and children. Chemical poisoning became widespread starting in the Victorian era when a surge in the discovery of new compounds and the industrialization of cities led to a slew of household innovations. These novel developments lacked regulation and their hazardous nature went undetected to eager consumers. During this time, the Victorian home became known as a “reassuring sanctuary” where cleanliness and the appearance of luxury were prioritized. From arsenic-laced dresses to lead-based paint in children’s toys, these domestic poisons largely affected women and children.

The 18th century invention of Scheele’s Green, a pigment produced from copper arsenite, became wildly popular in the home as well as the garment industry throughout the 19th century. Everything from food to wallpaper to dresses was colored with the bright green pigment, and consequentially leeched arsenic into the skin and respiratory systems of unsuspecting consumers.

The Making of:

Mylars and proofs forever and ever.

Step 1:  Crayon drawing on limestone.

Step 2:  Adding color


The first layer printed was white, for a subtle highlight in the stitches, skeleton, and folds of wallpaper.  The yellow-ochre was printed with two separate plates.  One layer was a blend roll printed diagonally, the second layer was a blend roll with the same colors printed vertically.

Layers 1, 2, and 3: Showing converging blend rolls.

The green was a toner wash etched into an aluminum plate.  This plate was printed twice.  After the first toner wash was printed, the plate was counter etched using Hydrochloric and phosphoric acid, and a second toner wash was applied, darkening the area around the figure.

Continue reading

Giant hand-carved wood panels for HaiSous

For the next several months, I will be working on several 8 ft tall hand-carved panels which will be installed in HaiSous.  A partnership between husband-and-wife duo, Thai Dang and Danielle Dang, HaiSous is an authentic Vietnamese kitchen scheduled to open this Fall 2016 in Chicago.  Please visit their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram @haisouschicago , and Twitter @haisous for updates on the opening and information about pop-up dinners this summer!

If you are a restaurant or small business (in Chicago or otherwise!), I would love to work with you!  I am currently seeking to collaborate on hand-printed food and cocktail menus, art pairings with multi-course dinners, installations, and any other way you wish to incorporate art into your business.  Please contact me at

Click through the gallery for progress shots of this project with Haisous.   Below are couple videos documenting the carving process.

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“Cut and Sown” wrap up and SGCI: Portland



Thank you so much to everyone who attended the opening, saw the show while it was up, purchased work, and came to the talk on Saturday! Thank you Joanne Aono for having our art be friends for a month and thank you Stan Klein and Tony Fitzpatrick for providing Chicago’s art community with such an amazing space. It means the world to me to have such supportive people in my life, I would be nowhere without all of you.

Images from “Cut and Sown” can now be viewed here.  There were 12 pieces in the exhibition, and a total of 19 in the series.


I am getting prepared to embark on a road trip with Gabe Hoare and Liz Born from Hoofprint Workshop and Anna Hasseltine.  We will be at the publisher’s fair slinging prints at Hoofprint Workshop’s booth, so please stop by and say hello!  In addition to the publisher’s fair, I am also a part of two exhibitions opening during the conference.






Sightings is a portfolio of thirty prints from thirty artists working with the subjects of cryptids, ghosts, extraterrestrials, and other scientifically unexplained entities.  Thank you AJ Nordhagen and Brittany Kieler for organizing this, I am honored to be included in this portfolio of talented and prestigious printmakers.  More info at SIGHTINGSINPRINT.COM


Kao_R_More Beautiful in Death



My 2-plate etching More Beautiful in Death will be a part of Pull of the Print, a group exhibition of fifty artists working in the medium of printmaking.  These works will be exhibited alongside Beth Kerschen‘s Portland: East Meets West series and Tom Huck‘s Brandy Baghead triptych.  More info at VERUMULTIMUMGALLERY.COM

See you in Portland!