Block and Print by Grace Martin Taylor at the West Virginia University Art Museum in 2016
You've read posts about the history of white-line woodcuts on this blog before, but last fall, I went on a somewhat crazy journey to experience some.
West Virginia University acquired an extensive collection of white-line prints by a native West Virginian artist named Grace Martin Taylor and they displayed the entire body of work in 2016. She had taught at the University for many years and happened to be the cousin and student of another WV artist named Blanche Lazzell.
If you are a white-line woodcut addict, you certainly know of Lazzell and some of her Provincetown, MA artist buddies who invented the method back in 1915. Many people call their creations "Provincetown Prints" and associate them exclusively with their New England birthplace.
The real story is that Lazzell and her cousin Taylor did create a lot of prints in Massachusetts, but they also used the medium to chronicle their hometown in West Virginia. Even a hardcore New Englander like me has to admit that the white-line woodcut is as much West Virginia's as it is Provincetown's.
In fact, West Virginia turned out to be the best place for an avid fan to see a master's work.
As soon as I learned of the Taylor exhibit, I knew I had to find a way to go. But it seemed crazy - there is no convenient way to get to Morgantown from New Boston. Was it really worth traveling all the way down there to see one room full of prints?
Not really, but I have family and friends near DC, which is also not very close to Morgantown, but it is closer than here...
I grabbed at that small excuse to fly from Boston to Pittsburgh, PA, drive down to Morgantown, see the exhibit, stay one night, drive to northern VA to visit some people for a few days then drive to Baltimore, MD to fly back to Manchester.
The exhibit turned out to be worth every bit of effort. A room full of beautiful woodcuts, blocks, and letters written by Taylor and Lazzell. Truly, I was surrounded by treasures.
Hollyhock Time, white-line woodcut print by Grace Martin Taylor
I left the room to briefly enjoy some other exhibits and told a staff member how much I enjoyed the woodcuts and seeing a bit about Lazzell too.
"Then you haven't seen the mural yet?" she asked, "There is a whole exhibit upstairs with Lazzell's work in it, including her mural from the courthouse."
My trip was about to get even better! I rushed upstairs and found a gallery full of paintings, prints, and charcoal drawings by Lazzell, including this giant mural (you can learn more about it here):
Justice, by Blanche Lazzell
My whirlwind trip was a only a few months ago, but as time passes, I grow more and more thankful that I went. I doubt this collection will be shown again in my lifetime and there is even less of a chance that these prints will travel extensively. I saw a chance to get a white-line woodcut fix, and I grabbed it. Instead of regretting it, I feel proud that I honored my love for the medium by experiencing this special exhibit.
Do you need a white-line woodcut fix? Taking my workshop in a couple of weeks would be perfect!
Sign up here!