In 2011, printmaker Keith Howard completed an audacious project entitled Eve’s Garden: the Lost Creation. The scope of this project was vast, including 150 works over five years. Howard’s stated objective was to “create a universal twenty-first century concept of Eden and the realization of humanity’s presence to the possible loss and destruction to our earth.”
Traditional printmaking is a toxic process. Howard was the head of contemporary printmaking at Rochester Institute of Technology and a leader in the development of non-toxic printmaking techniques. These new techniques have made it possible for printmakers to address issues of sustainability and health and safety. In focusing on the unspoiled landscape and model Michelle Long’s interaction with it, Eve’s Garden speaks directly to this question.
The subtext of globalization is what caught my attention, however. The project was a three-way collaboration between printmaker Howard, model Long, and Chinese painter Xiang Ming Lin. Historically, master printers would create copies of original paintings for popular dissemination. Howard reversed this order, creating a master print which he would send to China where Mr. Lin would create a fair copy.
The works Mr. Howard sent to China were in themselves fully realized works of contemporary photogravure, where the lighting, the image stitching, the composition and the chromatic structure were complete. Mr. Lin’s part in the project was to transcribe this into oil painting, using a traditional indirect painting technique.
This raises profound questions about globalization. Who is the creator? Where does the art lie? How much fidelity lies in the so-called exact replication of work done offshore? Is there, in fact, exploitation inherent in the process, or is that a presumption?