Someone once said that the front porch is where adolescents leave their attitudes.
For Grace Shanley, the front porch of a 19th-century home in Blooming Grove, Pa., has been a special place for her, her husband Bill, six children and 13 grandchildren. In fact, the house itself, located in an area that used to be part of a hunting and fishing club, has been a special place for her husband's family for the past five generations.
The house and porch, which have provided the Shanley family "a type of back to nature" life for generations, now provide the setting for a series of collages of prints and monotypes that Shanley has created for a new exhibition titled, "Recurrence of Memory," which opens Sept. 16 with a gallery reception from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Center for Contemporary Printmaking at Mathews Park, 299 West Ave. The exhibition continues through Nov. 6.
Shanley, a Rowayton resident and founder of the CCP, will share the spotlight with her co-exhibitor, artist Ron Pokrasso of Santa Fe, N.M., the originator of Monothon, a print-making marathon and live auction now in its 12th year at CCP.
Anthony Kirk, artistic director and master printer, said Shanley's works are an "expression of family love." He praised Shanley for all the work she did to found the CCP in 1995 and in taking on the role of its director for many years.
"There would not be a Center for Contemporary Printmaking without Grace's years of dedicated hard work. In many ways, this exhibition is indeed an accomplishment and a preview of what lies ahead," he said.
Shanley, a member of the Pastel Society of America as well as the Silvermine Guild of Artists, served as the executive director of the Silvermine Guilld Arts Center for 10 years before founding CCP in collaboration with Andrew Stasik and Michael Costello.
Recently, Shanley, a pastel portrait painter, discussed her work in the upcoming exhibition during an interview in the Helen Frankenhaler Printmaking Cottage, adjacent to the main CCP building.
In her work, she combines contemporary printmaking processes with traditional techniques to produce mixed media portraits inspired by the front porch because it has often been the setting for family gatherings for generations. It is where the family has come to celebrate holidays and special occasions and especially to enjoy the summer, a time where family members have come together to hunt, fish, sail and swim. Her husband Bill's grandmother was the first owner. She wanted the family to come to the house so through the years Bill's grandmother added sleeping porches to accommodate the growing family.
"We can have 25 to 30 people on a weekend," said Shanley of family gatherings that typically take place on Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day weekend.
Shanley's 15 works in the exhibition represent a variety of mediums including photographs, pastels, etchings and monotypes among others. The different print techniques offer endless possibilities in creating her artwork, said Shanley, who likes to work with images of her family members because they are very important in her life.
In each of the works in the show, Shanley incorporates images of her grandchildren, who range in age from 12 to 25. The prints are collages of the grandchildren as children, as adolescents and as adults. Some of the works also include images of her own children with their children.
During her process of creating each work, she sat down with each grandchild and asked a series of questions, such as, How do you see yourself? In doing the interviews, she "learned something that was very revealing about them" and then selected some of their responses for inclusion in the artwork. For example, with the print of granddaughters Kim, 17, and Molly, 15, a tagline along the base of the print quotes Kim as seeing herself "athletic, outgoing, funny and loyal." Molly describes herself as "fun, loud, athletic and thoughtful."
When discussing the images of her two granddaughters, then and now, Shanley points out the similarities in the style of clothing then and now. For example, one granddaughter is wearing a skirt in both images and the other is wearing pants.
Another print focuses on the camaraderie among three of her grandsons, Billy, Chris and Brian, as children and now as "twentysomethings." She says through the years, they have always enjoyed each other's company.
The centerpiece of Shanley's work in the exhibition is a 10 by 3-and-a-half mural in which the background is a photograph of woods with images of the family members set throughout the woods.
In discussing Shanley's upcoming exhibition, Kirk describes the subject matter of as a "playful nod to the past with a feeling of déjà vu -- the grandchildren now appear in similar poses of the childhood photographs, cousin alongside cousin."
Shanley is excited to be sharing the spotlight with Pokrasso. She met him more than a dozen years ago when she visited him in Santa Fe to learn more about the Monothon, which has become a popular fundraiser for CCP.
Shanley headed the center for many years, and its main gallery, The Grace Ross Shanley Gallery, is named in her honor. She pointed out that Pokrasso brings a different sensibility to the topic of memory. His monoprints explore life's relationships, lost and renewed. He uses innovative contemporary techniques including ImagOn, Solarplate intaglio and collage. His monotypes and edition prints use non-toxic printmaking processes, and he often embellishes the final print with drawing.
During a telephone interview from his home in Santa Fe where he has lived the past 32 years, the Brooklyn native who grew up on Long island, said he is looking forward to being part of the new exhibition at CCP, where he returns every year to assist in the Monothon, the fund-raising concept which he originated in Santa Fe.
He said is artwork in the exhibition, half of which is comprised of new works, not only deals with the relationship between or among the images in each work, but also reflect his own relationship to the image(s). He explained that his relationship with the print is really about the passion that he experiences as he creates the artwork. The passion of the process comes before the content or the image, he said.
"It's about the art of making art. It's the relationship of me to my art," he said.
While he understands in talking with Shanley that her work in the exhibition "is very, very tightly related," his prints will represent "a wide range," including a few prints from his series of baseball images.
"Baseball for me was my very first passion in life," said Pokrasso, who is still a diehard Yankee fan. He recalls the joy of discovering the game as a child -- of finding a patch of grass and playing ball.
Even today, he and his son play for a men's league in Santa Fe. His passion for the game inspired the series of baseball-themed works of art beginning in the early `90s, which were exhibited in a show titled "Fantasy Art and Baseball" in San Francisco in 1992. One of his prints featuring Mickey Mantle will be among his pieces in "Recurring Memory." To this day, he enjoys listening to the Yankee games on his computer as he works in his studio.
Pokrasso was first introduced to printmaking while attending Pratt. He immediately gravitated to the art form because, "It opens up all sorts of possibilities...It's a tool."
The artist praised CCP for being an "excellent, down home facility. He says the center has a democratic attitude, based in education. He also praised the center's stability in terms of staffing, which he attributes to the camaraderie there.
The gallery reception will be held in conjunction with the Norwalk Arts Commission's September ArtSpot, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the Center while the reception is in progress. Norwalk Arts Commission Chairman Jackie Lightfield said ArtSpot is a great networking event for the arts community, business sector and government staffers to talk with one another and to explore the art venues in the city. ArtSpots have taken place at City Hall, the Maritime Center, galleries and other art institutions.
CCP is as non-profit organization dedicated to the art of the print: intaglio,lithography, monotype, silkscreen, woodblock printing, paper works, book arts and digital arts. The center is housed in the 19th-century stone carriage house of the Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum. The center has several goals: to create a place where traditional printmaking techniques are taught and preserved; where new technological innovations are explored and the opportunity for experimentation and informed study are possible; and to educate the general public to an increased understanding and appreciation of prints and the process of printmaking. To achieve its goals, the center conducts workshops, exhibition outreach programs and an Artist-in-Residence Program.
This fall, Diane Victor of Johannesburg, South Africa will be in residence in the Helen Frankehaler printmaking Cottage from Sept. 20 to Oct. 4. In conjunction with her visit, there will be a "Walk and Talk" scheduled for Sept. 30 at noon. Also, Victor will have a one-person show at David Krut Project in Chelsea from Oct. 21 to Dec. 18, featuring some of the prints she will create at the cottage.
CCP is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 .p.m. Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. the Grace Ross Shanley Gallery is open to the public free of charge during regular opening hours.
For information 203-899-7999 or www.contemprints.org .