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June, 2000

Pyramid Atlantic And Its Programs
By Nicole Selmer

Bladensburg High School student 
Delvin Walker presents his artist's book 
to his fellow scholarship students 
during Making Connections 2000. Many artists are attracted to the visual texture and mark making of printmaking and papermaking. However, printmaking and papermaking can be an expensive undertaking. Thousands of dollars are spent on hydraulic, etching, and litho presses, and Hollander beaters for making paper pulp. Acquiring the education to run this equipment can also cost thousands of dollars. Can painters, sculptors, and even printmakers themselves afford to invest in projects like this? There are places throughout the country that specialize in providing printmaking and papermaking services to artists and their communities. Some, like the Lower East Side Printshop in New York, NY, specialize in printmaking, providing press time and expertise for artists. Others, like Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paperwork, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, combine printmaking with other mediums such as papermaking. Do you need to travel to New York, New Jersey, or the West Coast to produce limited edition artist prints? There is an international innovator of printed media, papermaking and the art of the book right in the suburbs of Washington D.C. The name of this non-profit art center is Pyramid Atlantic.

Pyramid Atlantic began as an idea of founder and Artistic Director Helen C. Frederick. In 1981 Frederick moved from New York City to Baltimore, Maryland. She began teaching classes, securing funding, and capturing the interest of artists; thus Pyramid Atlantic was born. As the organization grew, Frederick moved Pyramid from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., and then to its current location in Riverdale, MD. Nineteen years from its beginning, Pyramid is still an artist-centered community that explores the arts of hand papermaking, printmaking, and artist's books. It provides access to equipment and technical expertise through rental of it studios. Artists may use the spacious well-equipped facilities for individual or collaborative projects. Its mission is to provide these resources to professional and student artists, young audiences, and the general public. This vision supports a commitment to innovative, collaborative exchange between people in a setting that encourages experimentation and development. Pyramid hosts and attracts artists and master teachers from all over the world, fostering understanding and appreciation of books and paper to general audiences.

Collaboration in process.  Artist 
Joyce Schott, Pyramid Atlantic Artistic 
Director Helen Frederick, and Resident 
Printer Trish Tillman focus on 
registering Scott's monoprint. Pyramid's programs include the Bridge Program, a workshop and lectures series that bridges the gap between familiar processes and hot, new innovations. In the spring of 2000, Pyramid was proud to sponsor master classes with book conservationist Steven Loew in his workshop, "How to Treat Books," and with master artist Katherine Kernan in "Fume Free Printmaking". In "Fume Free Printmaking," Kernan focused on traditional monotype techniques such as stenciling and direct transfers, and combined these traditional techniques with her fume free approach. She used several waterbased inks, such as speedball block ink, Greendrop ink, and Aqua Color, and discussed which inks were most appropriate for transparencies, layering, and opaque techniques.

If you missed the Bridge Program, Pyramid’s Summer Institute schedule offers a complete selection of master classes in print, paper, and the art of the book. Highlights for printmakers are the return of Ross Zirkle with his "Waterless Lithography for the Guerilla Printmaker", Elizabeth Dove’s in-depth "Non-toxic Etching," and Carol Todaro’s "Artists' Books: Thinking in Digital".

A very large part of Pyramid is its artist’s collaborations, made possible through artist residencies and studio rental. Artists working in any medium can come to Pyramid with an idea, and through dialogue and consultation with one of Pyramid’s resident artists, expand this idea into a larger project. In February of 2000, New York sculptor, Mark Hadjipateras, sponsored by the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, completed an artist residency at Pyramid Atlantic. Hadjipateras’s residency began a few months before his arrival. He consulted with Helen Frederick and Assistant Director and resident printmaker, Bridget Lambert. After consultation it was decided that Hadjipateras, specializing in installation and performance art, would work with Lambert and master printer Oscar Gonzalez-Ceron to produce two images combining digital imagery, lithography, and silicone intaglio plates.

Mark Hadjipateras, Eleftheria i 
thanatos/Freedom or Death, 2000, 16 x 21 
in., lithograph, edition: 20.As Washington began to thaw from its series of never-ending January snowstorms, Hadjipateras arrived from New York. He jumped right into his work, beginning with drawing images and shapes that relate to his sculpture. He and Bridget Lambert digitally combined these images with found imagery from household catalogs. Simultaneously, Hadjipateras and Gonzalez-Ceron began working on ball-grained lithography plates. Hadjipateras drew on these plates with various greasy, mark-making tools, and Gonzalez-Ceron processed and proofed them. After much consideration, Hadjipateras decide to complete the image by printing a monoprint under each lithograph. Gonzalez-Ceron enlisted the help of resident printer Brett Fisher to edition this monoprint and litho. When the lithograph was complete, Hadjipateras and Gonzalez-Ceron began work on the second print. Gonzalez-Ceron took Hadjipateras’ new digital image and burned it onto two Toray plates. These Toray plates were printed in two runs, one on top of the other, to make one image. Hadjipateras spent the last day of his residency giving a hands on demonstration and slide presentation of his work to art students from the Canterbury School, in Southern Maryland. They and their teacher, Mary Beth Eagan, had come to Pyramid to see how a professional artist works in the studio.

Another spring residency was completed by book artist Maureen Cummins, working in Pyramid’s letterpress studio. Cummins, who was also sponsored by the NEA, spent one month at Pyramid pounding away on the Vandercook press. Cummins combined letterpress with photo images on photopolymer plates to print pages for a limited edition artist book. Cummins also introduced fifth graders at Sidwell Friends School to a spontaneous lesson on letterpress. The fifth graders attended a hands on papermaking workshop, led by resident paper artist Nicole Selmer, focusing on 18th century paper guilds. Cummins invited them back to her studio to learn about typesetting. Each student was able to print a sheet of text.

Spring also saw a return of Baltimore artist Joyce Scott to Pyramid’s studios. Scott, currently showing her retrospective at the Baltimore Museum of Art, began her project at Pyramid in the fall of 1999. Scott arrived to produce a body of work combining printmaking and handmade paper in Pyramid’s print and paper studios. Pyramid’s unique ability to augment the beauty of the print with the luxuriously rich surface of handmade paper offered Scott a seductive surface to print dark images of childhood memories. She began by exploring in Pyramid’s papermill, where she helped produce large sheets of handmade paper. She chose to work with large black and gray sheets of paper embellished with metallic and pearlescent pigments. Scott took her handmade paper to Pyramid’s printshop, where she worked with artistic director, Helen Frederick, and resident printmaker, Trish Tillman, to produce prints combining toray intaglio plates with monoprints. These prints are now available for viewing at Pyramid Atlantic’s studio.

Local artists have also been collaborating in Pyramid’s papermill. Georgia Deal, on sabbatical from the Corcoran College of Art, received a grant from the Prince George’s Art Council to spend time collaborating with resident paper artist, Nicole Selmer. Deal creates innovative images that border on literal translations and are based on borrowed images. Deal drew her colorful images in pulp on pellon and then transferred these images onto her sheets of handmade paper. She has received another grant to return to Pyramid this May.

Artists and printmakers knowledgeable in using the presses and papermaking facilities continue to produce new works in the studio. Shireen Holman, Mary Heiss, Connie Fleres and Elsabe Dixon, Cookie Kerxton, Natalie Abrams, Mary Ott and Ruth Crump are some of those who have been working regularly, editioning prints and exploring new processes. Of great pleasure is Washington, D.C. artist Alec Simpson’s monotype project. Alec completed several large monotypes with the assistance of Brett Fisher in preparation for exhibitions in Kansas, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.

Looking back to the future, Baltimore artist Ruth Channing spent her debut at Pyramid’s American French Tool etching press, with assistance from Trish Tillman, editioning large scale engravings of her signature figures. Channing helped Frederick 19 years ago when Pyramid was still forming as an idea. She generously provided her private studio and her own American French Tool etching press for Frederick to pursue her own work, after Frederick moved from New York — the birth of Pyramid Atlantic was thus put in motion. Channing and Frederick both agree that when they think of all that has happened (especially for printmaking) over the years, it has been a good pursuit.

In addition to its artist collaborations, Pyramid Atlantic offers many exciting educational opportunities to the community. Through its noted pilot programs for education, Pyramid organizes programs for regional schools, colleges and other institutions. One of these programs is Pyramid’s Making Connections program. Making Connections offers high school art students the opportunity to spend five days in a professional artists’ studio, working with well-known, professional artists. During their time in the studio, the students learn printmaking, hand papermaking and book making techniques from resident and visiting artists. Students combine these visual art techniques with their own writing to create an artist’s book. This year’s Making Connections Program, held from April 10-14, brought together 12 students from Bladensburg, Blair, Northwestern, and Walter Johnson High School, Edmund Burke School, Washington Waldorf School and the Duke Ellington School for the Arts. Students were selected by their teachers to participate in the program, and were under full scholarship through Pyramid Atlantic’s Arts and Education Fund, made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, the Prince George’s Arts Council and Pyramid’s Arts and Education Memorial Fund.

Pyramid also offers an educational internship program for college undergraduates, graduates, and post- graduate students. Interns assist Pyramid Atlantic’s staff in the Fall, Spring, and Summer Workshops, with the visiting artist residencies and in the International Cultural Exchange program. Pyramid’s program is unique because it offers interns hands-on opportunities to participate in educational outreach programs, graphic design and digital imaging, special events planning, and arts administration. After spending a spring, summer, or fall semester at Pyramid, interns gain first hand knowledge of how a non-profit is run, they strengthen their artistic skills and stretch their vision of what they thought was possible.

Pyramid extends its educational programs into the community by holding many annual and bi-annual events. One of Pyramid’s best-known events is its Bi- Annual Book Arts Fair. Last year Pyramid celebrated its sixth Book Arts Fair. The fair was coordinated by Susan Goldman and Marcia Brown, and was held from November 19-20, 1999, at The Corcoran Gallery of Art. This contemporary fair provides a unique opportunity to view the extraordinary variety of book forms being produced all over the world. This fair is the only event of its kind, known nationally and internationally as the premier artist book fair, representing over 300 exhibitors from South America, California, Texas, Alaska, Maine, New York, and throughout the United States. The Book Arts Fair is a favorite in the community because it provides a forum for independent art presses, writers, dealers of artist books, binders, custom handmade papers, collectors, and critics. It’s a place where curators and librarians for special collections, teachers and the general public can come together to see what’s happening in the world of book arts.

Pyramid Atlantic sponsored its 
sixth Book Arts Fair in November, 1999 
at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.In addition to the opportunity to meet and purchase work from artists, papermakers, binders and dealers, the Book Arts Fair sponsors an invitational exhibition. In 1999, this was coordinated by artist Lisa Tayerle. Over 80 books were selected and displayed. The books were juried by Mark Dimunation, the Chief of the Rare Book Department and Special Collections at the Library of Congress, and Neal Turtell, Executive Librarian of the National Gallery of Art.

Next year in 2001, as Pyramid Atlantic celebrates its 20th birthday, watch for great new studies and opportunities. Pyramid is creating a Site for Electronic Media, Art and Applied Art in South Silver Spring along with Silver Training, a digital training facility. Stay tuned and booted up for Pyramid’s forecasts.

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