Art view        Paulette Thenhaus


From wood and from clay


Creating artist's woodblock prints is a labor-intensive process, one easily forgotten in this age of the slick giclee instant print. Peoria veteran printmaker Cathie Crawford brought one of her carved woodcuts to her recent opening at the Galesburg Civic Art Center. The deep hand carved swaying gouges in Luan board become a river in a finished print. The thick handmade Japanese paper she uses gives the print a substantial weight and adds depth to the roller-applied ink. Registering these large papers for accurate alignment in full color printing is no easy task.

"Healing Waters" is the largest work on display. It covers the back wall with four sections aligned as one piece. At a viewing distance of several feet, it looks seamless. Crawford prints in editions of about six to ten prints. Of course, since the handmade prints are hand inked and pulled, no two are identical. So, though printed in multiples, each print is a singular labor.

Often the images involve water, sky and at times, fish. "In Pursuit of Damsel Fish" is one. The ripples of the water suggest the grain of the board it printed from. Crawford is an avid scuba diver and world traveler. Flying with her "private pilot husband," the trips sometimes result in aerial views she will use later in prints such as "Flight to Lucaya" and "Plane Magic," a view from the sky of San Francisco Bay.

Crawford has developed her own signature palette of subdued natural hues. She returns to green, blue, orange and pink frequently. Water and sky often take on a rainbow effect of glowing muted contrasts. Images timed at early sunrise and sunset are common.

She says of her work, "It celebrates magical moments" of her life. I might add, and the magic in nature, too.

Elena Rakochy's intertwining tubular clay sculptures complement Crawford's woodcuts and visa versa. Like the woodcuts, the hand formed clay has a natural flow to it. Though Rakochy states her work is directly influenced by nature, she doesn't discuss any hows or whys. She does delve into the nature of clay in her provided statement. She allows natural conditions: barometric pressure, humidity and the like to affect her finished glazed structures. Sculptures are often left partially glazed to reveal the clay body. Sometimes a gritty glaze of neutral color is applied or dripped onto figures (Familia).

"Baile" is constructed of loopy and undulating tubes. It is about three feet in circumference. Newer work is smaller in scale and suggest hand formed, bulbous human figures (Rayada).

Rakochy has a strong start in a long journey with clay.


The midsummer exhibition at the Galesburg Civic Art Center, 114 E. Main Street, runs through July 26, 2008. For gallery hours call: (309) 342-7415.