Open House: Five Engraved Scenes

Artist Questionnaire Many of the artists included in Locally Made responded to a series of questions about their materials and process. A selected response follows.

Title: Open House: Five Engraved Scenes

Media: Copperplate engraving, printed on Twinrocker White Cotton Rag Laid

Location of residence: Providence, Rhode Island

Location of work (studio/office): Grace Episcopal Church

Process (describe as fully as possible): My mother moved to Providence from Maryland in 1996 and spent a year looking for a house. We went to dozens of real estate open houses and looked at probably 100 homes in all. As I went through each home, I tried to figure out the absent owners by looking at their furniture, decor and personal items. In Providence, most of the homes had been lived in by many generations and it was possible to see the layers of history that built up over the years. I knew I had a fascinating subject for a new project.

I had rough sketches from my open house visits and started to develop a sculptural model of a typical home. The model was quite generalized, with simplified furniture made from foam core and nude figures sculpted in microcrystalline wax. Drawing from the model allowed me to see the figures in space and develop my narrative. I wanted to depict a real estate open house at a single moment in time, the characters of the absent owners illuminated by their belongings and the incidental interactions of the visitors and realtors showing situations I had observed in my reconnaissance missions around Providence.

The five scenes were developed through many stages of drawing in line and tone. A final outline drawing, containing all information about contour and perspective was transferred to the copperplates. At this point I could develop the hatching, using a system of parallel swelling lines based on my close study of the work of Claude Mellan, the 17th century French engraver. Each plate took 3 to 5 months from start to finish.

The engravings were printed in an edition of 50 on my press in Providence.