Yin and Yang

Dale and Connie Mueller: Two artists, one marriage, one studio, one gallery

‘Sunriver Canal I’ by Connie Mueller

A meeting of opposites is on exhibit through Nov. 14 at Eugene’s White Lotus Gallery. Connie Mueller creates painstakingly detailed linoleum block prints, employing a finicky process that is borderline obsessive; her husband, Dale Mueller, makes big, bold simple sculptures out of redwood and copper.

The two artists’ work will share the downtown gallery for the next month in Block Play: Reduction Linocuts by Connie Mueller & Wood Sculptures by Dale Mueller.

Connie Mueller’s work is familiar to White Lotus regulars; she’s had two previous solo shows of her prints at the gallery and has had her work in group shows there. 

The process she uses is called “reduction” printmaking because the artist uses the same linoleum block for each separate color in the print, cutting the linoleum away a bit more for the application of each layer of ink, usually printing the lightest colors first. It’s so easy to make a mistake that some artists call it “suicide” printmaking; once you’ve made an error you have to start over with a fresh block.

Connie’s landscapes involve as many as 28 colors in a single print, meaning 28 adjustments to the linoleum block and 28 passes through the press for each sheet of paper. Making a single print takes her four to six weeks of work in the studio she shares with Dale.

“I look at the lightest colors that I need to make sure I get in a piece,” she explains. “You kind of have to do yellow first, and then I can do other colors over it, so I get a different yellow or green I want in some bushes or something. And then I can go back after I’ve done several colors over that built up. You can get a lot of big variation by going back and forth.”

Dale Mueller’s sculptures have appeared at White Lotus in a group show, but this is the first time the Muellers have taken over the whole gallery together.

He first saw the copper-over-wood technique in the work of the late Mel Schuler, who taught sculpture at Humboldt State University in California. Also influenced by such disparate artists as Constantin Brâncuși and Alberto Giacometti, as well as by the late Oregon wood sculptor Leroy Setziol, Dale works on salvaged redwood logs, starting work with an electric chainsaw and then developing his vision with a mallet and chisel, finally sheathing the wood in copper.

None of his sculpture is representational; instead, he says, he simply works with shapes and forms that please him.

While Dale says his art is “just a hobby,” it’s a hobby he’s been pursuing for two decades, and his work is as accomplished in its rough way as his wife’s detailed prints. “I can’t draw,” he says. “I just observe art, trying to learn what’s good, and what’s maybe not so good. And so, my concept is, ‘Darn, that looks OK.’ Or, ‘Boy that looks like a piece of stuff!’”

Working together at home in a two-car garage, the two artists look at each other’s work and occasionally offer help, he adds, keeping it all within the longtime limits of marital discretion.

“I don’t critique too much,” he says. “Maybe she gets stuck, you know, and we’ll talk about something. And you know, at the end I’ll say, ‘Boy, that looks great!’”

Block Play: Reduction Linocuts by Connie Mueller & Wood Sculptures by Dale Mueller runs through Nov. 14 at White Lotus Gallery, 767 Willamette Street. Viewing is by appointment 10 am to 4 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Call 541-345-3276 to arrange.