Innovative printmaker and writer Dorothy Fields explains herself, her process and her upcoming exhibit at Xchanges Artists Gallery.
IN 1971, AFTER COMPLETING AN MA in Design at UC Berkeley, specializing in textiles, I moved to Canada. In the 1980s I began making Nepalese and Japanese style paper as a way to escape the loom’s constraints. In the ’90’s, I began printmaking with Susy Raxlen, a Montreal-trained printer. I made the plates; she did the actual printing. In 2008, I started printing myself working and learning at Ground Zero Printmakers Society.
“Hands Triad” by Dorothy Field
I now have a press in my basement, printing unglued pieces of paper and adhering them to a base sheet of handmade paper in ways that interrupt the natural continuity of the image.
Just as I left the rigidity of the loom, I have not followed the discipline of traditional printmaking. I have total respect for those who do, but that will never be me.
I am the author of three books of poetry, an extended essay illustrated with my photos of the ways paper is used in Asia to connect with the gods, a book of garden letters, and a children’s book about a family in India who blockprint cloths for the worship of the Mother Goddess.
After 30 years on a farm in Cobble Hill, I now “farm” my Victoria backyard, sharing my space with vegetables, fruit, and a native plant corner.
About this exhibit
For several year I have been playing with the idea of creating imagery and then interrupting it.
I print the same etching plates over and over, incorporating different, sometimes unconventional ways of shifting the theme. Inspired by Betty Goodwin’s vest series and the way she liberated the press, I placed my ancient garden gloves on a copper plate prepared with soft ground and ran them through the press to create an etching plate. Later, I did the same with my Tai Chi shoes.
“Overlapped” by Dorothy Field
I’ve also been working with the human face using the very direct lift print technique. Of particular interest are the faces of people we might consider Other. I collage these lift prints with scraps of etchings and the odds and ends of papers that float around my studio. I incorporate text as a visual element for its rhythm and sense of message, even when I don’t know the language or it is obscured in some way.
The substrate is integral to the work. I made most of the sheets of paper from imported and local fibres using Japanese and Nepalese techniques. Some papers are fairly refined, some are quite rough. The pieces represent a marriage of paper and image with the paper more than just a vehicle to carry them.
My interest is non-narrative, exploring the many ways an image can be stretched, obscured, and overlapped while still retaining the image or its shards.
The resulting work is additive and layered. I rarely know exactly where I’m going, feeling my way to unknown destinations. This body of work engages the accidental, the imperfect, and happenstance. I am willing to live with a few disasters in order to arrive at the unexpected.
Iterations: Hands, Feet, Faces opens Friday 12 March, 7-9pm at Xchanges Gallery. Artist Talk Sunday 21 March @ 2pm (via Zoom). Exhibition continues Saturdays/Sundays 11am-4pm through March 28. Xchanges Artists Gallery and Studios is at 2333 Government Street, Suite 6E. 250-382-0442; https://xchangesgallery.org