Being a visual artist can be a solitary occupation, working in your studio alone all day. But if you’re a printmaker, odds are you might be sharing a press and working alongside other artists. That’s what Heather Halpern says she likes best about printmaking: the aspect of community.
When she wanted to seriously pursue the art form there wasn’t enough room at home for a press. So she and husband, Paul Halpern, leased a 2,000-square-foot workspace in the Whiteaker and put the press in there. They started Whiteaker Printmakers in 2015. Today it is a nonprofit membership-based studio and gallery.
The Emerald Print Exchange, showing this year at the Karin Clarke Gallery on Willamette Street until Nov. 27, is WhitPrint’s annual event.
Clarke has been operating her Willamette Street art gallery for nearly 20 years. She showcases Northwest artists who are recognizable in Eugene, including her mother, Margaret Coe, and father, Mark Clarke (1935–2016). The Emerald Art Exchange is a departure for Clarke. While it does include works by established artists from our neck of the woods, such as Connie Mueller and Yuji Hiratsuka (both represented by White Lotus Gallery), it also features prints by students and printers who live as far away as Japan, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.
An exchange is a common event in the world of printmaking. Printmakers work in editions or series. They create a limited number of prints off of one plate, so they can keep one for themselves and trade the rest. Exchanging prints with other artists can be a quick and effective method of collecting art, not to mention creating a community of collectors.
The 175 artists showing in the Emerald Print Exchange submitted 12 identical prints each. Whiteaker Printmakers kept one of the 12 from each artist. Those are the prints in the exhibit. The rest were distributed among the participating artists, and also to Print Arts Northwest, a nonprofit in Portland where Halpern serves on the board.
The prints are available for viewing at Whiteaker Printmakers’ website as well. Prices started the first day, Nov. 2, at $95. In reverse auction style, the price drops $3 a day until the show ends. Clarke and Halpern point out that it’s a gamble if you wait for the price to go down — the piece you like may disappear.
After all, the show completely sold out last year.
Halpern and Clarke have not collaborated before, but their paths have crossed. They took a printmaking workshop with the late artist Rick Bartow (1946-2016) at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art when he was in town for his retrospective, Things You Know But Cannot Explain, in 2015. They both studied with painter Adam Grosowsky at Lane Community College as well.
The way the artworks are hung for this exhibit is different from the usual framed and distanced format seen on the walls at Clarke’s gallery. Prints are clipped to strings in rows, like garments on a clothesline. Halpern refers to the exhibit as an installation. Clarke says she feels the informality of the presentation gives the show a fun atmosphere, and the hot-off-the-presses vibe (prints are hung to dry this way, too) makes the art more tempting.
Clarke notes, too, that the show is unusual in that it is a true collaboration between a commercial gallery and a nonprofit organization. The proceeds from the sales will be split between her gallery and Whiteaker Printmakers.
Will the Emerald Print Exchange be shown at Clarke’s gallery next year? No, it won’t. It is scheduled to be exhibited at Maude Kerns Art Center in 2022. Halpern likes to move the show around to different venues. That way, she says, she is able to spread around her support of the art community.
The Emerald Print Exchange continues at Karin Clarke Gallery, 760 Willamette Street, through Nov. 27. Hours are noon to 5:30 pm Wednesday-Friday and 10 am to 4 pm Sunday. See more information about Whiteaker Printmakers at WhitPrint.com.