A Sense of Place/El Sentido del Lugar is a collaborative show uniting two printmaking workshops 3800 miles apart: Circling the Square Fine Art Press in Gardiner, ME and La Fundación Estampería Quiteña in Quito, Equador. The project revolves around the themes of biodiversity, local and global connections, and rainforests. The more compelling part of it is the long-distance collaboration between artists who have never met, who were asked to work on top of each other’s essentially finished pieces.
In some cases, these interventions are so synchronous that they seem to have been made by one person. In other cases, the second artist tilts the work into a different direction entirely.
Most of these collaborations were not simple swaps—the artist would send her work and receive that of someone else in return. This meant there was little symmetry in their responses. It also made for a show that couldn’t be hung in simple sets of matched pairs.
The crowd responded to this with enthusiasm, tracing the lineage of the collaborations from the individual work of the artists. For this to happen, they had to understand something about the print-makers themselves. Were they interested in line or color? What technique were they using? What was their worldview? That required a level of engagement one doesn’t usually see at art shows, where the typical response is visceral, rather than intellectual.
After the show, artist Barb Whitten took me to Gardiner to see the group’s workshop. The other luminaries were still in Augusta, so the press was empty and dark. Opened in 2007, it allows its key-holding members to work independently whenever they can (since many of them also have day jobs). It is immaculate—as one would expect when 17 artists share a relatively small space—and energetic, reflecting the amount of work created there.
A Sense of Place/El Sentido del Lugar runs until February 19 at the Charles Danforth Gallery at UMA.