Penny Dell

03 HIve Monoprint 32x25.jpgClick here to see more of Penny’s Art.

Over the years I have produced cycles of work on various themes, from Jazz to doors and windows to interior spaces while mastering printmaking processes: from monotypes I have gone on to a reduction in woodcuts as well as working on etchings. More recently,  In monoprints, I have explored the beauty of invasive species and in woodcut, monotypes imagined celestial phenomena like exploding stars and space warps. Presently I am exploring the rich materials of patterning using the interiors of security envelopes.

Without totally banishing the real world, I am interested in representing states of mind, scenes from a dream, fantasy and interior life. Using the rich materials and techniques of printmaking, the mood can be invited. I especially like the wonderful black of the ink called charbonelle – the “fossilization” that occurs in mixed colors when they survive the pressure of the press and the intimacy of the smaller scaled print.

Every one of my artworks carries the story of its inspiration. One series was started by my admiration of a piece of dried vine in an old bottle. The vine had contracted as it dried, suspending its branches, tendrils, and berries in a most amazing way, like calligraphy.  First I drew it, but soon was etching a copper plate with part of the image.  Moving on to a second plate, I finally finished a work titled “Bittersweet”. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has this plant on its list of National Invasive Species – there’s lots of it along Metro North tracks, or along many roadsides–literally taking over the landscape.

Bittersweet is smothering native trees and shrubs, but did start me on a whole series of works exploring invasive species: “Tree of Heaven”, Ailanthus, also taking over abandoned lots and highways, led to etchings of one of its seed clusters; Japanese Knotweed another import of botanists, and Garlic Mustard, brought over by settlers to enrich their cooking, both invaded meadows and woods and led to many  monoprints using these plants.  Disturbingly beautiful also “Devil Horns, water chestnuts, now found along the Hudson (dreaded and admired for their armor), have joined my growing list on this series.

Another series started with mapping branchings of a tree outside a window. Drawing it, I found myself admiring details, even as I worked to communicate the whole. After depicting twigs, buds, and minute markings carefully for hours, there was still a lot to do. I stepped out of my shoes, traced their shape on the floor to avoid future distortion of my drawing angle, then continued to record detail for two more weeks. Disappointingly, the drawing floated un-anchored in space – it needed its window frame.

So the drawing got etched, and, to contain it, the tree image was placed within a large woodcut of the window frame. Printed on different papers and on canvas, too, it opens a little Vista on any blank wall. Spending all that time on the details that made the tree individual, had enhanced its universal qualities, so it’s titled “Ur Tree”.

The tipping point for most of these series is a small moment in the natural world, but some are more speculative. The night sky inspired one series on constellations — mere speculation on what is suggested by the “dot-to-dot” of the stars. Recently concepts like exploding stars, space warps, and interplanetary trash led to a series of woodcuts that uses imagination more than observation and results in more abstract works. The process of printing, itself, is inspiring as inks are layered over each other, and the temptation to experiment freely kicks in to enrich the work.