‘Magical, elemental materials’ come alive in ‘Stone, Water, Wood’

On March 22, a new exhibition will open in the UAA Kimura Gallery: “Stone, Water, Wood.” The exhibition will feature three landscape-based print series, as well as drawings, watercolors and two limited edition artist-books by Jim Lee, professor of printmaking and drawing at the University of Hartford in Connecticut.

Stone Water Wood.jpg
Jim Lee’s “St. Kilcomin Church, Co. Mayo.” is a color woodcut he created in 2015. Lee’s work will be on display in the Kimura Gallery in the Fine Arts Building until April 13. Photo credit: Jim Lee

Lee became serious about making art while he was in high school, and got into printmaking as an undergraduate. He was the first student in 10 years to graduate from his college with a printmaking concentration. Lee said he got hooked on the processes of printmaking and has done it ever since, totaling around 45 years.

Inspiration for “Stone, Water, Wood” came to Lee when he moved to New England, where the landscape highly contrasted that of where he grew up.

“The title of this exhibition, ‘Stone, Water, Wood,’ refers to the magical, elemental materials of the natural world,” Lee said.

Lee works in series that often extend over several years, beginning with drawings and photography and leading to woodcuts. This series showcases about 25 years of work, and Lee is particularly proud of how the watercolors turned out.

“The watercolors are a new medium that I have never really worked with before, and it has opened up new ways of thinking about my color woodcut prints,” Lee said.

Riva Symko, assistant professor of art history and curator of the Kimura Gallery, admires Lee as an artist for his skill level and attention to detail.

- Advertisement -

“[Jim Lee] is an established print maker with a very refined level of skill,” Symko said. “For instance, his prints are made with multiple woodblocks, which is very labor intensive, but pays off in the finished work. You can really see this in the fidelity of his prints.”

Kilcomin Graveyard.jpg
Another piece in the exhibit.

Symko also views Lee’s exhibition, along with anything else featured in the Kimura Gallery, as a learning experience for students, both in the Department of Art and not.

Along with the exhibition, Lee will also be hosting relief printing demo-workshops, where he will demonstrate his techniques though a multiple block relief print with many colors.

Steven Godfrey, chair of the Department of Art at UAA, has a minor in printmaking and was a student in Lee’s printmaking class while obtaining his undergrad at Hartford. He says the printmaking program at UAA has been around for 30 years or longer. However, enrollment in the last five or six years has dropped in Alaska and around the country. He hopes these workshops will get students more interested in printmaking at UAA.

Jim Lee printing woodcut on the Vandercook proofing press.jpg
Lee prints a woodcut on a Vandercook proofing press. Lee will be doing relief-print demonstrations on March 21 – 23 in the Print Shop, Room 313 of the Fine Arts Building. Photo credit: Jim Lee

“Enrollment always fluctuates, but we want to get them up to a point where they are very consistent,” Godfrey said. “Printmaking is a great option for students to communicate their experiences visually. They can also make multiples of things, so it’s a great avenue for making a living, and a great area of study.”

Lee advises art students to build a strong foundation in the fundamentals and create a broad skill and interest base in order to find their passion.

“Trends come and go, but follow your personal instincts and passions, not the trends. Find something that you just have to do,” Lee said.

The relief printing demo-workshops take place March 21 – 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the UAA Print Shop, Room 313 in the Fine Arts Building.

The “Stone, Water, Wood” exhibition will kick off on March 22 at 5:30 p.m. with an opening reception. The reception is located in the Kimura Gallery on the second floor of the Fine Arts Building, and is free and open to the public. The exhibition is open for viewing for everyone every Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m until April 13.