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Skeletons, Accordians and Octopods

What would you put on posters for a band that revels in love, loss and genetic mutations? Instruments sprouting like tentacles from a skeleton’s mouth, maybe? A lone Hohner accordion? A whistling octopus? 

You can find all of these images and more, hand-carved and pressed by Michael Roderick, on view at Sam Bond’s as part of Last Friday ArtWalk. As bandleader and accordionist of Mood Area 52, Roderick started carving block prints as a cheap way to make posters for music events. Mood Area 52 draws on everything from Golden Age tango to electronica to Waitsian cabaret; they’ve played barns, clubs, festivals and assisted living facilities so it seems only natural that the frontman for such an eclectic group would have outside talents. “With printmaking, as opposed to other forms of art like painting or other graphic art forms, you have to really focus on the essence of an image, and that’s similar to songwriting,” Roderick says.

The exhibit includes band art, commissions and other works compiled over a 20-year period. With prints at $40 a pop, Roderick makes an effort to keep them affordable. “I want people to look at art as an accessible thing that anyone can do, and that anyone should be able to buy.”

As for the print-carving material, Roderick prefers battleship linoleum, the kind made from linseed oil. “It’s somewhat pliable but really stiff linoleum that they used to use in hospitals and other institutions,” he says. 

Roderick buys the linoleum in bulk, mounts it on plywood, and draws the image in reverse with a Sharpie. After that he carves the image and presses it by hand. “I hung a bunch of the blocks along with the prints, so the original blocks themselves are on display alongside the prints. You can look at them and touch them and see how the process works.”

Many of Roderick’s prints have one thing in common: skeletons. Not the sad, morbid type of skeletons, but ones with instruments in hand. These guys are grooving so hard you can almost hear their bones knocking. With songs like “Before the Bog” and “Dance Like the Day Before You Die,” it’s not surprising that death is a theme. Order a brew, put on your culture cap and see what 20 years of carving experience can produce. Or better yet, see how it’s done and then make some prints of your own. 

Michael Roderick’s prints will show Nov. 30-Dec. 28 at Sam Bond’s Garage.