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Floating World: New woodcut prints by Mary Brodbeck at CCCAC

HANCOCK – Mary Brodbeck spends a lot of time looking at, being in, and being on the water. Floating World, her newest body of work is at the Copper Country Community Arts Center this month. Brodbeck explains that her woodblock prints tell stories about places she has explored and revered. As a Michigan native, most of her imagery is representative of the Great Lakes region. For this exhibition she has also chosen scenes in Japan (where she learned this art form), the coast of Oregon, and other magnificent areas that have caught her attention during her travels.

In her artist’s statement, Mary says, “Floating World is an homage to the 17th – 19th century Japanese woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e (floating world – pictures). Back then, the term “floating world” referenced the fleeting, or transient nature of all things. In modern times, “floating world” has been further interpreted to imply a state of being, or of “living in the moment.”

Woodblock prints are impressions on paper made from carved and inked woodblocks. Multi-color prints require separate carved woodblocks for each layer of color. For over 1300 years the Japanese technique of woodblock printmaking evolved from simple black and white prints made by Buddhist monks to prints of astounding complexity made during the golden age of Ukiyo-e in the 1800’s which would have been made by teams of highly skilled craftsmen. Through the dedication of talented teachers and outreach programs by the Japanese government, Japanese woodblock printmaking is alive today as artists from around the world continue to create with these historic techniques. Characterizations of this process includes: the use of water color pigments, precise multiple block registration, and pressing with a hand-held baren.

Mary Brodbeck received a BFA in Industrial Design from Michigan State University in 1982. Prior to pursuing woodblock printmaking, she worked in the West Michigan furniture industry for 12 years, obtaining many United States patents. In 1998 she was granted a Bunka-Cho fellowship to study in Tokyo with Yoshisuke Funasaka, and in 1999, earned her MFA in printmaking from Western Michigan University. In 2014, she produced an award winning documentary film (entitled Becoming Made) about the woodblock process. Her original woodblock prints are in collections at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Muskegon Museum of Art, Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, and in many other public and private holdings worldwide. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband John Schmitt. And, as a passionate cross-country skier and snowshoer, enjoys regular visits to the Copper Country during winter.

Floating World will be on display in the Kerredge Gallery through Oct. 31. This exhibition is supported in part by a grant from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Copper Country Community Arts Center is located at 126 Quincy Street in Hancock. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information visit the website at www.coppercountryarts.com

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