2012-06-07 / News

Move to Jamestown influences artist to follow her passion

Islander’s work will go on display at Fall River exhibit

Islander Joan McNally Wright – along with her art group, Liberty Street Printmakers – will be featured at a Fall River exhibit that begins Sunday. Above is one of Wright’s monoprints, titled “Scattering Yellow.” Islander Joan McNally Wright – along with her art group, Liberty Street Printmakers – will be featured at a Fall River exhibit that begins Sunday. Above is one of Wright’s monoprints, titled “Scattering Yellow.” Island printmaker Jane McNally Wright’s love for the art began at an early age – but she opted for another career path. It was her move to the art-inspired community of Jamestown that changed everything in that regard.

“I guess I was inspired by living here,” she said. “I started to pursue my interest more actively and it’s grown into a career now.”

Wright is part of a group of printmakers who will present its work at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, Mass. The group of nine artists – known collectively as the Liberty Street Printmakers – are from the Newport Art Museum’s Coleman Center for Creative Studies.

Wright grew up in Massachusetts and attended college at Georgetown University. She has lived in Jamestown since 1998 and quickly became acquainted with artists on the island: She is a member of both the Conanicut Island Art Association and the Jamestown Arts Center.

Wright didn’t begin her art career as a printmaker. Initially she began as a painter, working in the encaustic medium, which is a beeswax-based paint. It is a laborintensive process, she said, that requires melting the wax, adding resin and pigment, and applying it while it is still liquid so that it hardens immediately. The paint is then moved around, with layers being added and subtracted until the artist is satisfied with the result.

“I did some traditional oil painting in the very beginning,” she said. “That’s where I started. Encaustic painting appealed to me because it’s got this unique surface quality. The waxy quality is very interesting, and I loved the idea of building up some layers and then selectively removing things and exposing what’s underneath. That’s why printmaking appeals to me also. It’s the same type of thing where you’re concealing – and then revealing – the layers.”

Having a mother-in-law who is a printmaker stirred Wright’s interest in the art form about five years ago. She was also influenced by the fact that Margot Rubin – who taught her encaustic painting in the first place – is also a master printmaker. Wright said that printmaking does relate to encaustic painting somewhat in that the art- ist thinks in layers. She added that she was attracted to printmaking because while encaustic art is labor intensive, a printmaker can go into a studio and make a few different iterations of the same image in one afternoon.

The Liberty Street Printmakers have worked together at the Newport Art Museum for some time now – some members have been with each other for more than 10 years. The group’s primary interest is in the act of coming together to express themselves through printmaking. Wright joined the group five years ago. Rubin, who hails from Providence, is the group’s instructor. According to Wright, Rubin has taught the group a variety of printmaking processes.

“It’s been great because all of the people in the group are devoted to printmaking, but everyone is doing different types of printmaking,” said Wright. “It’s kind of a collaborative process because you play off what other people are doing. You learn from what they are doing. The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know.”

The show at the Narrows Center is special for Wright because although the artists have been working together for some time, they don’t often get a chance to show their work publicly. She said it’s a great opportunity to put each individual’s work in frames and display them together on a wall so it can be looked at as one whole body of work. “It’s a great opportunity for us,” she said. “We’re thrilled to have it.”

The other printmakers who will be displaying alongside Wright and Rubin are Kelley Albert, Ginger Lacy, Marion Wilner, Deb Talbot, Robin Vallese, Mary Evans and Brian Pitts. The artists hail from various parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. There will be all different types of prints, including collagraphs, woodcuts, solarplate etchings and lithography.

Wright cites the abstract-expressionist movement – along with contemporary painters – as her primary influences. Although the group she is working with now is based in Newport, Wright stressed that she is supportive of the burgeoning art scene in Jamestown. She noted that she draws inspiration from the work of local printmakers like Peter Marcus, Josey Wright and Dan Wood.

The Narrows Center says that the exhibit will offer a glimpse into the creative and varied world of printmaking, with a range of techniques being used – from graphic and painterly monotypes, to woodcuts, paper lithographs and mixed media.

The opening reception will take place on Sunday, June 10, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Narrows Center located on 16 Anawan St. in Fall River. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. The exhibit will be on display through July 14.

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