Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Ithaca, New York
by Nancy E. Green, Associate Curator of Prints and Photographs
May 16 through July 5, 1987
Nancy Friese's painterly monoprints transform traditional landscape into an explosion of lush color and amorphous shapes. The strange environs that emerge suggest her close sympathy with a curious type of nature: tamed but format, elegant, and rich with dense beauty. The thickly layered clouds suggest receding storms, with the air just clearing and the landscape crystalline and recently rain-washed.
The artist paints her monoprints directly onto a metal plate and then puts them through the press, producing one final print that she then further individualize by adding gouache. As in painting, the medium allows for free expression of gesture. The image is built up with the gouache and with layers of colored inks added by sequential passes through the press. Friese allows the colors free movement, and they overlap and merge, giving the prints the ebullience of watercolors.
Her etchings, though more somber, incorporate the same distorted tree and cloud forms. The areas of pale color, created with chine colle, are a much more subtle complement to the densely etched lines. The layering with cine colle allows for more variation of light and color than does single-plate etching. The process lends the works an air of intrigue, of primeval ruins and age-old mysteries. The scenes are the gardens of Gothic tales, imagined but unfamiliar and illusive.
Her drawings, which precede the printed images, are often done out of doors and have the same gestural quality that will ultimately appear in the prints.
The landscape remains Friese's source of inspiration. Like Constable, who felt landscape to be the source from which originality must spring, she finds that "the sky's light and forms and the land's trees and textures are what I build my composition and mood around." Those elements, however, defy our traditional concept of landscape and open up entire new vistas to the imagination.