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.
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.
“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.