By Nicholas Dekker, Marketing, Communications & Events Administrator for the Greater Columbus Arts Council
The fourth-annual Columbus Open Studio & Stage (COSS) returns Sept. 14-15. The public is invited to visit 48 different Columbus artists at 18 locations, enjoy behind the scenes experiences at local performance spaces and organizations, and to explore seven community arts partners. Christine D’Epiro Abbott and Karen Albanese Campbell will offer tours and demonstrations at their studios inside Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative. We chatted with them about their background, influences and what they’ll share on the tour.
Nick: How long have you been creating, and how do you describe your work for those who don’t know it?
Christine: I’ve been creating as long as I can remember. (Thanks Mom and Dad for your tolerance of constant ongoing projects/messes!) More officially, I graduated with a BFA in fine arts at Columbus College of Art & Design and M.F.A. in visual arts from Washington University in St. Louis. Right now, I am focusing on printmaking, specifically relief and silkscreen, with colorful playful images of domestic interiors. The work is inspired by everyday family life and raising two young creative, curious and busy sons. I want the work to invite the viewer into the spaces that we exist in over and over again — hence the repetitive nature of printmaking — and use abstraction to hint at all the activities that exist within.
Karen: I’ve been creating art since I was a kid. I’m one of those people who always knew that I would be an artist and never considered another type of work. I studied fine arts in college, I’ve always worked as an artist (starting in a silk screen t-shirt factory!) and now I am able to focus entirely on my work as a fine artist. My work has primarily focused on people and their stories. But I’m also deeply interested in spirituality, justice and connection. So my work tends to be really eclectic, sometimes symbolic and suggestive of the human presence. That is true when I’m making quilts and making experimental work. I follow the ideas, not demanding the work follows a stylistic groove. Right now I’m focusing on printmaking and imagery that is about the refugee crisis and homelessness. But it manifests in different ways as I go along.
Nick: Who are some of your greatest influences?
Karen: I have been profoundly influenced by Japanese art, especially the printmaking, screen painting and textiles. I studied art in Boston and visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts every week. I still visit at least once a year. Their Asian collection had a huge impact on me. I am especially drawn to the narrative aspect of Japanese art, and how stories are told in ways that are mysterious, symbolic, spiritual and beautiful. One screen I saw a few years ago moved me to begin the creation of a series of art quilts that are about immigrants and hospitality. The work doesn’t look anything like the Japanese screen but my idea was inspired by the romantic notion in the screen. Other artists I love are Paul Klee, El Anatsui, Richard Diebenkorn, Jim Dine and a UK printmaker Thomas Hammick. A pretty eclectic list, so it really reflects the way I approach my own work.
Christine: Too many to list, but right now I am looking at silkscreen prints in general to prepare for an upcoming class I’m teaching, David Hockney’s interior scenes and interestingly Carl Larsson. Carl Larsson could be considered the Norman Rockwell of Sweden, and his images are very illustrative and saccharine. However, what I’m most into is the depictions of his highly personalized homes’ interior which includes his wife’s tapestries and other fiber work, painted chairs, furniture of their own design, as almost a stage for their busy family’s activities. As a Swede, the aesthetic of their furniture is very familiar (IKEA, anyone?) and not having grown up with his images, I’m able to enjoy the simplicity their sweetness without over analyzing.
Nick: This is your first time presenting at COSS — how are you feeling about welcoming guests to your studio?
Christine: I am feeling great about welcoming guests into my studio — as it is really a shared creative space. I am a core member at Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative. Collectively (and individually) we love to welcome guests and to talk about our work and the printmaking process!
Karen: I love being part of a co-op like this because being a fine artist is extremely isolating. There’s a lot of talent in our group and so many different styles and ideas! The core members pulled together to support us, and several will be on hand to help us welcome tour participants. I’m looking forward to giving more folks the chance to see what we’re doing and to see how they might be able to jump in, too.
Nick: What are you planning to showcase or demonstrate over the COSS weekend?
Christine: I’m planning to have a kid-friendly printmaking activity and have out the tools used for the silkscreen process.
Karen: I’ll be focusing on my continued experimentation with drypoint and carborundum prints, which require some different ways of inking up plates that people might not be familiar with. And I’ll have a new series of two- and three-color relief prints available as well as a new six-color print.
Nick: What’s your favorite thing about the Columbus arts scene right now?
Karen: I recently saw the new opera The Flood and I find that kind of work really exciting. New work being developed and workshopped and then being able to see a world premiere right here is pretty cool. As a visual artist, it’s inspiring to me to look at and experience other genres of art. To see the orchid show at the Franklin Park Conservatory in the dark winter months is really good for my creative psyche.
Christine: I think the Columbus arts scene is friendly and full of opportunity, both to exhibit work and find your niche as an artist, with the support of other creative peers. I also value the financial support of organizations such as the Greater Columbus Arts Council — which in turn receives community support — and have been benefited both directly with grants and indirectly by exhibiting in spaces and shows supported but the Arts Council.
Visit Christine and Karen at Phoenix Rising Printmaking Cooperative (243 N. Fifth St.) during Columbus Open Studio & Stage, Sept. 14-15. Purchase tickets or download the app to participate. A full list of artists, stages and partners, as well as ticketing links, can be found at columbusopenstudioandstage.com.