A Sacred Messenger: New Monotypes by Amy Dobrian
Iowa Artisans Gallery hosts the exhibit, A Sacred Messenger: New Monotypes by Amy Dobrian. March 2 – April 29, 2012. The Crane is an icon of myth and legend, and species are found on every continent except South America. This exhibit of twelve large-scale monotypes employs the symbol of the Crane, representing a confluence of ideas about world mythology, personal narrative and the impact of global change on habitat. Dobrian’s monotypes also incorporate techniques in origami, another personal interest. A native of Iowa City, Iowa, Amy Elizabeth Dobrian graduated from Dartmouth College and received an MFA in printmaking from the University of Iowa. She has exhibited nationally and internationally in over one hundred group and solo exhibitions.
This body of work is a coalescence of certain ideas that have informed earlier chapters of my work and a lifelong interest in ecology and conservation. The choice of subject matter for these images came from two sources.
The first source is my long-time fascination with the study of comparative world mythology, the idea that myths and legends across cultures are archetypes that represent universal human experiences, emotions, journeys and rites of passage. Mythology and the iconography of myth help us both to understand our own personal life journey, and to see ourselves as part of the whole interconnected organism of our planet.
The second source is my “hobby,” my secondary creative pursuit of origami.
I had long considered bringing some of the aesthetic of origami into my “serious” artwork. As I began experimenting with visual ideas, I began to see how the traditional forms and motifs of origami and origami papers could be used to inform my visual message.
The iconic origami figure is the Japanese crane, also an icon of world mythology. As demonstrated by fossil records, the crane is one of the most ancient species of bird on earth, and species of crane exist on every continent except South America. This huge, majestic bird has been used as a symbol and subject of myth and legend by cultures around the world, perhaps most famously those of Japan and China, as well as Korea, Bhutan, Indonesia, India, aboriginal Australia, Siberia, Germany, ancient Greece, the Zulu of southern Africa, the Crow, Shawnee, and Aztec of North America.
I have chosen to call the crane a “sacred messenger” because of its contemporary role as intermediary between humans and our fragile planet. It takes on a new mythology as the symbol of the collective unconscious and the collective consciousness, that our lives as we know them are interdependent with all species.
I began studying the crane between two worlds, as a spiritual symbol and messenger, and as a living, breathing animal, coexisting with humans in a fragile world. Migrating thousands of miles internationally between nesting and wintering grounds in scarce wetland habitats, ever more encroached upon by human developments, wars, and use of natural resources, the crane is a messenger for our planet.
As with all species of animal and plant, the life and the very existence of the crane is intertwined with our own. Thirteen of fifteen species of crane are listed as endangered or gravely threatened. Human action has both brought several species of cranes to the brink of extinction, and has also saved them. On every continent where cranes live and reproduce, there are humans eager to clear and drain habitat for farmland and to shoot cranes in grain fields. Others work tirelessly to educate the public about the cranes’ role in the larger ecosystem and to preserve their nesting grounds. Measures taken by humans in the past sixty years to save habitat of the Japanese Red-crowned Crane, and to successfully breed the American Whooping Crane (of which fewer than twenty individuals were known to be living between 1938 and 1950), have been nothing short of heroic. Yet at this very moment, vital habitats of Sandhill Cranes and severely endangered Whooping Cranes along the Platte River are under threat in the debate over the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
These works may be most accurately described as mixed media, but fundamentally they are monotypes. The images are conceived of in the techniques and aesthetics of printmaking, beginning with the monotype process. They are printed from a large plexiglass plate and mylar stencils with oil-based relief inks. While each image incorporates some direct drawing, 80-90% of the imagery is printed. Collage elements are Japanese chiyogami papers. In depicting the cranes and their habitat, I have borrowed equally from nature and from these chiyogami motifs, mixing stylized and naturalistic representations.
A native of Iowa City, Iowa, Amy Elizabeth Dobrian graduated from Dartmouth College, with a dual major in French and Visual Arts. She continued her studies of drawing, painting and printmaking at the Lacoste School of the arts in Lacoste, France, the Tamarind Lithography Institute, Albuquerque, NM, and received an MFA in printmaking from the University of Iowa. She has exhibited nationally and internationally in over one hundred group and solo exhibitions.
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