SMALL MARVELS: Barbara Brock’s Miniature Monotypes
Posted on September 5, 2014
Pal·imp·sest – something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.
Taos printmaker Barbara Brock‘s arms are usually full of large framed monotypes when she visits Matthews Gallery, but this time there’s a slim black portfolio tucked under her arm. She opens it to reveal a series of miniature monotypes. None of them are taller than 8 inches, but they hold the same mesmerizing power as her larger works.
“We have this machine that cuts the plates, and there will be little pieces left,” Brock says. “I said, ‘This might be fun. No one else does little tiny monotypes.'” It’s no wonder she’s made something beautiful from fragments that were destined for the trash bin. Over the years, Brock’s printmaking has pushed her to repurpose nearly everything in her artistic toolkit.
Brock started her career painting oil pastels of the New Mexico wilderness. About 18 years ago, she signed up for a monotype class at the University of New Mexico Taos and never looked back. To make her monotypes, Brock paints special ink on a sheet of Plexiglass and transfers the image to a piece of paper using a press. Then she adds more ink to the Plexiglass and presses it to the paper again, layering brushstrokes atop brushstrokes to create stunning depth. As the name suggests, each monotype is one-of-a-kind.
The transition to printmaking was difficult at first. Brock was already adept at mixing colors, but she had to learn to paint her images backwards so that they would come out of the press in the correct orientation. “Printmaking is a little trickier to see what you’ve got,” Brock says. “I sometimes have to let them dry, look at them, and figure out what I’m going to do next.” Furthermore, lining up the plate with the paper to transfer each new layer of ink required perfect precision. Now Brock is a master printmaker, but working with diminutive pieces of Plexiglass presented several new challenges.
“They’re like studies for larger prints, but sometimes I spend even more time on them,” Brock says. “Those little tiny imperfections can look bigger in such a small space, so I have to work hard to avoid them. It’s difficult, they’re so small that sometimes they’ll hit the roll in the wrong place.” However, Brock says a new process also brings fresh opportunities for learning. “They’re a good way to experiment with color. I wanted to try blue on a white background, and I liked the effect so I used it on a larger print,” she explains.
You’d never guess the amount of work that went into these little unframed works; they’re effortlessly gorgeous. As you browse works from the new series below, think of each one as a tribute to an artist who always digs deeper. The best part? All of them are under $500.