I went to grad school at the University of Iowa, where the grad printmaking program was pretty much set in stone (or metal…) by Mauricio Lasansky. Lasansky passed away yesterday at the awesome age of 97. In my last year of the MFA program I challenged myself to make big prints. I was partly awe-inspired by the large etchings and engravings of his in the U Iowa Art Museum, and in his gallery in downtown Iowa City. More recently I have begun to look at his work again, this time his series of work from The Nazi Drawings and the ugliness of humanity that gets hidden or ignored.
Just a few weeks shy of her 97th birthday, another Iowa connection passed away yesterday. Elizabeth Catlett was awarded U Iowa’s first MFA degree in 1940 (when it was called the State University of Iowa), studying with Grant Wood. Needless to say that for a black girl who wants to be an artist, the usual suspects of artists I referenced growing up were not necessary representative of me or how I grew up. There were the exceptions, and the exceptional exception was Catlett. My heart sighs and my spirit swoons when I see her prints. Printmaking can often seem like an old-boys network. There are also relatively few African Americans who list printmaking as one of their primary mediums. So Catlett was that person who for me, growing up, filled that space next to me when I felt lonely or isolated.
Obits for both artists: