Oaxaca Tales: Printmaking Collectives & Museums

Printmaking Workshop Passport

One of the unexpected surprises of the International Shibori Symposium in Oaxaca was the exciting proliferation of small printmaking collectives. Most of them are focused on large scale wood- and lino- cuts, often in political themes. I visited many of the ones located in Oaxaca centro. For this, I used a “Pasaporte Grafico” walking tour guide containing a map, something about each of the ten venues, plus an opportunity to receive a “stamp” at each venue visited. Passports are available at each venue.  The entire walking tour was easy to accomplish and inspiring in its discoveries.

The Instituto de Artes Graficas was founded by famed Mexican artist Francisco Toledo, who also played a hand in many other Oaxaca cultural institutions, like the Ethnobotanical Garden. The Instituto has an exhibition space, gathering spot, library, shop and more. Taller Oaxaca Grafico is located near the Instituto de Artes Graficas and focuses on showcasing prints by founding members Edith Chavez, Dario Castillejos, MK Kabrito, Alberto Cruz and Ivan Bautista.

Insitituto Grafica, Oaxaca
at the Instituto Graficas
Courtyard connecting exhibition space, gallery, work space and libraries at the Instito de Artes Graficas

 Espacio Zapata “arte popular” is awesome and exciting for those of us who have done printmaking and screen printing. It has mutiple rooms and includes a small restaurant. On the walls are wood or linocuts used for printing, some nearly 2 meters long. It seems more a working space; the “sales” area is smaller by comparison and has a T-shirt shop feel. Its mission is “a political graphics production workshop for artists who consider and utilize art as a tool to support the struggle of our people.”

Espacio Zapata


restaurant at Espacio Zapata “arte popular”
Large scale woodcut substrate mounted on the wall at Espacio Zapata “arte popular”
silkscreens ready to use at Espacio Zapata “arte popular”
The scale of these woodcuts is awesome, at Espacio Zapata “arte popular”

At Estampa, I spoke with with H.L. Santiago Martinez, a painter. Estampa was once home to multiple artists, now just two and is evolving into more of a community arts space where conversations about graphic and visual arts promote national and international artists. It has a coffee shop. Later this month, it will host a book arts event.

At Estampa, painter H. L. Santiago Martinez

Gabinete Grafico has a wide range of work displayed in a way that is easily accessible for viewing and sold.  A very small space with one press and one work table, it makes excellent use of walls and loft to display an exciting array of work. When I was there, one of the artists, Celi Irving Herrera, was working on cutting a woodcut. Visit them on Facebook.

At Gabinete Grafico
At Gabinete Grafico

I also visited Oaxaca Subsuelo, which exhibits and sells local Oaxaca art work, and Taller Siqueiros Gallery, mentioned as a space “dedicated to spreading Oaxaca and international street art.”

Not on the passport, but noteworthy is the current exhibition at Oaxaca’s cultural museum, the  Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, located in the converted Dominican Abbey next to Santa Domingo and the Ethnobotanical Garden. It featured a huge show of graphic art by Leopoldo Mendez.

In addition to hundreds of prints, we also got to see Leopold Mendez’ original linocuts, tools and letters.

35 years of textile samples, part 5: weaving, intaglio & miscellaneous

And how about all of those other areas of experimentation? I was once a weaver and a spinner, and I first learned to print and dye textiles because  as a student, I was printing large etching plates on canvas. From there, I wanted to alter the surfaces on which I printed, and I started weaving. I was living in a geodesic dome in the lovely countryside surrounding Bloomington, Indiana, where I went to school. We hoisted the 300 pound Kessenich loom up a ladder and into the dome. We were crazy kids. In one of my first dye baths there, the water turned clear. That’s never happened since. It was a good thing, too, because we didn’t have running water. The pump froze and cracked during a wickedly cold winter. I was discovering how in love I was with the world of fiber.

two samples of handwoven fabrics, tie dyed and screen printed/handpainted, by Astrid Hilger Bennett


Handwoven, screenprinted fabric using Procion MX dyes, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Printing on wool, samples from a workshop, very nice, thin wool, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Intaglio (etching) samples printed on different fabrics, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
Intaglio (etching) plates printed on silk, cotton, in a “book” by Astrid Hilger Bennett
stitched, woven bands, no dyeing, by Astrid Hilger Bennett
More stitched, woven bands, no dyeing, assembled by Astrid Hilger Bennett



35 years of textile samples, part 1: early screen prints

Sample Mix

The day began with a search for a larger container to store fabric teaching samples. It ended with a journey through 35 years of creating fabrics.  I had already edited through these samples in previous years. It’s  a convenient time to do more. Consolidation and simplicity are freeing.

So many studio directions I’d forgotten about! Pathways through handwoven and warp painted textiles. Through silk screened, handpainted pears that I was quilting for a commission on the day I delivered my first child. Playing with cassava resists. Discharge. Silk painting.  Clamp resists and shibori. Odd little paintings and stitched, painted canvas. Pigment-printed cottons, and a few fabrics stiff with residual sodium alginate (not good.)

In recent years, more a mastery of layered fabric images and color, which you can see in the pieces on my website. Glad for that. In the several posts that follow, I describe a selection of samples and their techniques.

Early pear screen prints
My first official screen print (1975, top image), using two screens and Lacquer film stencils. One labored to carefully cut only one layer from the stencil, which was then adhered to the screen using awful, smelly, toxic solvents. Use too much solvent, and your screen would dissolve. This was my first introduction to modular design. Britex fabric paints on whatever fabric was available. The Pear screens were used to create a public art piece, Pears at Play, then purchased for Indiana University-Gary Library. The last image shows screen printed interpretations of drawings made while traveling around the United States for 6 weeks in 1976.
First screen prints
First screen prints
Sample book of early screenprints
Eraser print studies, 1975. These were used to explore the concept of modular design and registration for screen printing. We HATED this assignment, but now I value the knowledge I gained.
Fish screen based on minnow drawings while supervising a 3 year old,  1988. Screenprinted using ProFab fabric paints by ProChemical & Dye. Background colors applied as thickened Procion MX Dyes.
Screen prints for table cloths, 1991, with Pro-Fab fabric paints and thickened Procion MX dyes
Pear screen prints on linen
Crow screen print, used on canvas bags, 1992. Heat setting these Pro-Fab Fabric paints is vital. At left, a properly heat set sample. At right, one that was not heat set.


In the new year, I’ve come to think a lot about mark-making. I define that as the kind of gesture left behind after a stroke of painting or drawing. Marvin Lowe, my printmaking professor at Indiana University, drilled it into me. No, you are not allowed to make “chicken scratches” on your metal etching plate. Mine etching plates were zinc or copper. Every mark must be considered, should have presence, weight, character.

We’ve now had over 60 days of consecutive snow on the ground here in Iowa. Winter in general, and snow in particular, tends to isolate the visual effect of a tree’s bare branch, or whithered vegetation against the snow. I’m seeing “marks” all over the place, and were it not for the sometimes dangerous cold, I’d show many more images. Here are a few.

A screenprint, or a monoprint is a type of mark. Usually I overlay them.

snow shadows

Exhibit Day at the Surface Design Conference

Exhibitions at the Belger
A wonderful warehouse space in itself, complete with old fashioned freight elevator and loading dock for trucks. Here’s a list of all the shows I attended.

Stitches in Time: The Art of Ray Materson: narrative embroideries that reveal a poignant story of renewal through creative work. A fifteen year sentence for drug related armed robberies, unraveling socks for embroidery on new boxer short fabric, minute stitching. Creative work became a source of power within a prison community. Importance of support for prison art programs.

  • Surface Matters: SDA Members’ Show featured 18″ square format pieces by 200 members. This show included a wide array of member styles, competencies and techniques and allowed all members an opportunity to participate in a conference exhibition. (image at left and below. Shown: Stone Silence by Luanne Rimel, cotton flour sack cloth dishtowels; digitally printed, collaged, layered, stitched.)

    El Anatsui, Three Pieces, 2009. This Ghanaian artist and teacher at the University of Nigeria, is now world known for large scale installation pieces using aluminum (from cans, etc) and wire. These are powerful, awe-inspiring pieces.

    Jennifer Angus, Small Wonder, Secrets of a Collector, Nova Scota native now teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, installations using dead insects from around the world, choosing those only in abundant supply. These mirror the beetle art of 19th century.

    Alice Kettle, A Pause in the Rhythm of Time, from the UK: large-scale figurative machine embroideries, dyed backgrounds. Also collaged fabric portraits, very cubist, embroidered. Astonishing work.

    Elsewhere in Kansas City:

    Teresa Cole, Full Circle, another strong show at the Blue Gallery, relief & screen print on hand-dyed tarleton, BFK Rives paper. Trained as a fiber artist, now a professor of printmaking.

    Teresa Cole’s Full Circle, -she trained as a fiber artist and now teaches printmaking. Printed tarleton, below.

    Also notable:

    • Jerry Bleem shows that provocative sculptural forms can involve materials of humble origins, such as the staple. Bleem gave a stunning performance in a lecture later in the conference.
    • Daniella Woolf, Away with Words, featured encaustic mixed media works of great interest to surface designers with more of a mixed media bent.
    • Memory Cloth, Leslee Nelson’s embroidered vintage household linens, Lynda Barry-style.
    • Regina Benson, On the Curve, Dimensional Works from Nature’s Studio, rusted and discharged fabric in sculptural format. (Byron C Cohen Gallery)
    • Landscape with Floating Biology, mixed media installation by weaver Wendy Weiss, & Jay Kramer, Cocoon Gallery at the Arts Incubator.
    • Evidently, the Dolphin Gallery’s show of Anne Lindberg, Asiatica and others drew gasps of praise- I was unable to see it.
    • I would have liked to see the International Student Show, Points of Departure, at Pi Gallery but didn’t make it.
    • Likewise, HEather Allen-Swarttouw’s Transition in the Community Christian Church chose several themes executed in different media (fiber, clay, etc) and was said to be a strong show. When I tried to attend, the Church was closed.
    • In the trunk show later that evening, Mary Hark’s indigo and walnut dyed papers.

    my view from my piece of pie: can’t escape the spool of thread!