New MMCA exhibit features river-related prints donated by author

The MMCA’s newest exhibit features prints from artist and author Arthur Geisert’s children’s book, “Rivertown.” In late summer/early fall, the MMCA plans to launch a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for framing 20 of the 22 prints. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

Carl Homstad

Amy Dobrian

Larry Welo


By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor


The McGregor-Marquette Art Center’s (MMCA) newest exhibit, “Printmakers: Visions of time and place,” features work from four regional artists, including two prints from artist and author Arthur Geisert’s children’s book “Rivertown.” The two prints are some of the 22 etchings gifted to the MMCA by Geisert this winter.


Geisert’s donation was prompted by a visit from MMCA Galleries Manager Marilyn Etchison, who traveled to Geisert’s Bernard, Iowa, home to see if he’d be interested in participating in the printmakers exhibit. Geisert, who has authored 25 children’s books, readily agreed. As Etchison readied to leave, he walked over to his print drawer and pulled out a stack of prints, explaining that he wanted to give them to the MMCA.


The 22 prints, explained Etchison, were the original hand-colored etchings from “Rivertown.” The book, which is on display with the prints at the MMCA, includes scenes that look like they could have been painted in Marquette or McGregor.


“He wanted the prints to go to a place where they’d be valued,” Etchison said, adding that she was originally reluctant to accept the generous gift, but that Geisert convinced her.


“At first, we thought to sell them, but then you don’t have them anymore,” Etchison continued. “We want to keep them close by, close to our hearts.”


Etchison said the MMCA plans to use the prints as an educational tool around which children’s programming can be built. While just looking at and discussing the prints could be a program in itself, she said kids could also create their own versions of the prints.


At some point, the prints could also be sent out into the community to be displayed in or rented out to businesses.


However, to do any of this, said Etchison, all of the prints will have to be framed—something for which the MMCA will need funding. So far, only the two displayed prints have been properly framed. In order to frame the other 20, Etchison said a committee will work to start a Kickstarter campaign, which raises money for creative projects through crowdfunding. The campaign will begin in late summer or early fall, so watch for details about how you may contribute.


While Geisert’s prints are an exciting feature of the exhibit, Etchison also urges people to check out the other artists’ work and learn about the different types of printmaking.


“So many people who come in here don’t understand printmaking,” said Etchison, who is a printmaker herself and has also taught printmaking.


The work displayed in the gallery is so impressive, Etchison said, because it’s the artists’ original work—not a reproduction or photo of the original.


There are four major types of printmaking:

·Planography prints what is drawn on the surface and includes lithography and monotypes.

·Relief prints what is left on the surface and includes woodcut and linocut.

·Intaglio prints what is below the surface and includes etching, engraving, mezzotint and drypoint.

·Stencil prints through open areas in the screen and includes screen print.


Featured artists Amy Dobrian, Larry Welo and Carl Homstad attended the exhibit opening June 27, with each explaining their printmaking process.


Even though she creates monotypes, which are not recreateable, Dobrian said she likes to make prints that relate to one another by reusing stencils from one print in another, which can make certain parts of her art repeatable. 


Each color in Dobrian’s work represents a different print. She said she likes manipulating that so that you can see more or less of what was printed before.


All of Dobrian’s work in the MMCA includes images of cranes, which she gravitated toward because they are a universal symbol.


“It’s an animal that appears in all kinds of myths around the world,” Dobrian explained. “It’s an intermediary and messenger between worlds and people.”


Carl Homstad creates woodcut prints. From each, he said, 450 prints are created, with 12 usually made at one time. He then destroys the blocks after they’ve all been created.


“I like taking a jigsaw puzzle and putting it together with the different blocks,” he explained of his printmaking process.


Larry Welo creates etchings. However, unlike most printmakers, he said, he works with the subject in front of him, rather than from an image in a studio.


He uses an etching needle, which is like a stylus, to carve lines into a copper plate. The plate is then coated to protect it from an acid that only reaches into the etched grooves. When he creates a print, ink remains in those grooves, which the paper is then forced into to pick up the ink.


Etchison said she appreciated the artists’ willingness to speak and answer audience questions.


“Most artists are concerned about getting their message out, and they like to explain and talk about their art,” she said. “I feel that’s an important message to get out.”

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