Lila Oliver Asher’s December 2017 solo-show at Washington Printmakers Gallery in Georgetown, Washington DC was called Favorites – Old and New. Lila’s works are so elegant., like the images on classical Greek urns. Lila’s economic use of line and uncluttered compositions effectively convey a timeless beauty of form. Her subjects were often indeed classical, religious, musical, and very human and loving.
On its last day of the show, Lila gave a demonstration of how she printed her works. In the demonstration she uses one of her linoleum-block cuts, brayer with oil-based printing ink, Japanese archival paper, and a bamboo-leaf covered baren rather than a press. She did not own a etching press.
Lila is the author of “Men I Have Met in Bed” (Heritage Books), a book about her USO assignments during World War II when she went from one military hospital to another across the United States drawing portraits of soldiers too wounded to attend the USO celebrity shows.
Epic of Gilgamesh – [Mesopotamia 3rd millennia BCE]
“Aruru, you are the one
who created humanity? Now go and create
a new hero, let them balance each other
perfectly, so that Uruk has peace.”
When Aruru heard this, she closed her eyes,
And what Anu had commanded she formed in her mind.
She moistened her hands, she pinched off some clay,
She threw it into the wilderness,
kneaded it and shaped it into her idea.”
Adam (Enkidu) was the wild man in the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh who was created of clay and water by the goddess of creation to rid the king of his arrogance. Gilgamesh, the tyrant king, sent the priestess of the temple to tame Adam and bring him to Uruk, the center of this first civilization.
Taming Adam is in The Art League’s Poems and Prints show March 2021 (Alexandria, Virginia) and in the Art of the Mill spring show (Millwood, Virginia).
Free speech is protected by the U.S. Constitution. While peaceful public protest may be the only way to be heard and have grievous injustice finally corrected, it has risks in provoking violence. Today most protesters try to follow the effective examples of Gandhi, King and Mandela in peacefully seeking human rights justice. Some will bear the pain experienced by their heroes. I have created a few relief prints in sympathy with their cause.
In the nation’s capital on June 1st 2020, National Guard and mounted police cleared Lafayette Square of peaceful Black-Lives-Matter protesters with violence, flash grenades and tear gas. This event reminds me of the colonial protest events in 1770 when a child of 11 died in Boston at the hands of a British customs employee. After the child’s funeral, British Redcoats overreacted to an argument at the customs house between a wigmaker’s apprentice and a soldier over an unpaid bill. The apprentice was struck down with the butt of a gun; a mob formed, threw snowballs and stones, and five townspeople died in what is now known as the Boston Massacre.
Structure of the Work
I patterned “Lafayette Square 2020” after Henry Pelham’s 1770 engraving “The Fruits of Arbitrary Power”. Paul Revere made a similar contemporary engraving from Pelham’s example.
In my work, Saint John’s Episcopal Church replaces the Massachusetts Courthouse, teargas replaces black powder smoke, and protesters fall before armed US soldiers instead of British Redcoats.
I created Lafayette Square 2020 as a reduction relief print on handmade paper. That is: I carved, inked, and printed (10 copies) a single linoleum block three times, once for each color. I used archival paper made from a mixture of cotton and abaca pulp.
Short Tour of Lafayette Square
In my print, you are looking at Lafayette Square while standing at the curb of Pennsylvania Avenue with your back to the White House. I took some visual liberties in that the park is larger, about two blocks square, and contains mature trees and corner statues that would obstruct some of the view. The Executive Mansion became known as the White House when it was painted after the British army ransacked and torched it, the Capitol, and other public buildings during the War of 1812. The supporters of the last President ransacked the Capitol again seven months after the events depicted.
Across the street on left side of the picture is the Blair House which was built just after the White House was first painted. Internally Blair House has been joined with its neighbors to become the President’s guest house. Assassins attempted to invade the Blair House and kill President Truman when he as living there while the White House was being renovated.
At the end of that block is Decatur’s house. Commodore Decatur was a hero of the 1812 War. Like Alexander Hamilton, he died in a duel of honor. His house was designed by Benjamin Latrobe who also designed the US Capitol and helped President Jefferson add balconies to the White House.
Continuing right around the square you come next to the 5 Star Hay-Adams Hotel. It is smaller but more elegant than our former President’s hotel, which is housed in the old post office just up the street on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Central to the park across from the White House is Saint John’s Episcopal Church. St. John’s was providing refreshments to the protestors when the police fired gas and projectiles at the crowd to make room for a presidential photo-op in front of the old church.
Andrew Jackson’s statue is in the center of the square. Jackson was the hero of the astoundingly successful Battle of New Orleans at the end of the 1812 War. Important allies in his military campaign were the Choctaw tribes and Caribbean pirates.
In 1859, Daniel Sickles gunned down Francis Scott Key’s son on Madison Place in Lafayette Square in broad daylight. Sickles believed Phillip Key was having an affair with his wife. He got away with it. Sickles went on to become a Civil War hero at Gettysburg.
On the right side of the picture, I took liberties with the profile of the houses on Madison Place. I used instead the profile of the Boston Custom House drawn by Pelham and Revere. I wanted to draw a connection between these two violent events.
Printmaking is a way for artists to make multiple original copies of an artwork. Usually they create an image on a “matrix” such as wood, metal, stencil or stone and repeatedly ink it and press it against paper.
For carved and etched matrices, the artist can apply ink in two ways. She creates a relief print by rolling the ink onto the surface of the matrix before pressing it onto the paper. Or she can rub ink into the recesses of the matrix and off of the plate relief surfaces to produce an intaglio print.
Wood Block: The artist carves an image into wood and then prints it in relief. The oldest known woodblock print was printed 800 years ago in Japan.
Linocut: The printmaker carves into a linoleum matrix and then prints the image in relief.
Etchings: The artist engraves or etches the image into the surface of a metal plate and prints it using relief or intaglio methods.
Lithograph: The artist draws on a stone and treats it to take advantage of the fact that oil-based inks will not adhere to wet surfaces.
Silk Screen Print: The printmaker applies ink to the paper through a stencil and porous screen.
Monotype: The artist applies ink to a blank flat matrix yielding a unique artwork with each print.
Chine-collé: The artist glues a thin paper to part or all of the print’s primary paper before printing.
Editions: Most printing methods permit multiple original copies to be made. The artist may limit the number to preserve artistic quality and value. An “ev” annotation to the edition indicates that the edition copies may vary in paper and inks used.
Monoprint: Monoprints have elements that may vary from one work to the next.
Of course, you know what you like. But would you like to know more about how a photograph is composed? By learning what visual elements the artist uses to communicate with you, you may appreciate better why you like or don’t like a particular work of art. In the presentation below, the concepts are illustrated with photographic works. Click on the work for a larger image of it and then click on BACK to return to the presentation.
Nuovo thanks the Museum of Photographic Art (MOPA) in San Diego for allowing us to adopt one of their papers for this presentation. Artistic examples were added by Nuovo with permission the artist. All images are copyrighted by the photographer, Jack Leigh. All rights are reserved.
The objective of this article is to:
To develop visual literacy
Learn the basic vocabulary used in formal analyses in the visual arts
Combine content information with formal analysis to “read” (analyze) photographs
To enhance your appreciation of photography it is necessary to develop the skills to make careful visual analysis. While everyone can easily discuss the contents of photographs (“what you see”), most need more training to learn about formal analysis used in the visual arts. Formal analysis focuses on an artwork’s “formal” qualities, or those visual elements that give it form. These include: shape, size, texture, line, space, etc.
Formal analysis provides a basic common language in the visual arts. However, a description of a photograph based only on formal analysis would be incomplete. Photographers make decisions both about composition (arrangement of visual elements) as well as content (meaning) when taking photographs. Consequently, it is important to consider the artist’s intentions for making a photograph of a particular subject. Finally, the historical and social context in which a photograph was made must also be carefully considered.
An important note: each image offers a variety of interpretations. Therefore, the information provided in this resource for each photograph should be regarded as a starting point for discussion and not as a conclusive interpretation. There is no one correct answer when interpreting works of art. We encourage you to carefully examine photographs to develop your skills for analyzing photographs and to explore your own personal interpretations.