WLIW Arts Beat


WLIW Arts Beat - May 4, 2020

In this edition of WLIW Arts Beat, an artist celebrates the craft of letterpress; the life and career of Annie Lennox is explored through art; a personalized treasure hunt leads to artistic experiences; a sculptor teaches and creates whimsical and functional works.

AIRED: May 04, 2020 | 0:27:16



>> In this edition of

"WLIW Arts Beat"...

the art of letterpress.

>> Letterpress printing, as it

became an art form or a craft,

it -- it still has that limited

constraint of working

with the wood and the metal

and the wood and metal type

and the ornaments.

>> ...the life and career

of Annie Lennox through art...

>> You are first faced

with objects from Annie's past

as a music maker.

And as you move around

the mound, it gets

increasingly personal.

>> ...a personalized treasure

hunt of creative experiences...

>> You open the box,

you take off the lid,

and there it is.

It's this treasure that you've

found -- like a buried treasure.

>> ...and a sculptor shares

her passion through her

whimsical creations.

>> A lot of my work is whimsical

as well as serious.

And I just love to watch people

look at the pieces

that are there and giggle.

That's what I want.

I want them to make it part

of their daily grin,

have fun with it.

>> It's all ahead on this

edition of "WLIW Arts Beat."

Funding for "WLIW Arts Beat"

was made possible

by viewers like you.

Thank you.

Welcome to "WLIW Arts Beat."

I'm Diane Masciale.

Artist Erin Beckloff

loves the tradition and history

of letterpress.

As a professor

at Miami University in Ohio,

Beckloff tries to keep

the craft of letterpress alive

by educating her students and

the public about the art form.

Here's her story.

>> Letterpress printing is

a method of relief printing.

While technology shifted,

letterpress printing

was the method of printing

for over 500 years,

and it's no longer economically

the fastest way to print,

but there's something that

people are still connecting to,

and I think that's why

it's become an art and craft.

My in-laws gave me a small

printing press as a wedding


So I got this little printing

press, and I didn't know how to

use it, and so I started

reaching out to people in the

letterpress community for help,

because you can search for it

on the Internet,

and there are some videos,

but it's so much better to go

and meet with someone.

And I started to find

that there were other people

that cared about this

and there were other people

that had printing presses

in their basements or garages.

And it wasn't just people

in their 20s and 30s,

it was also people in their 80s.

So, it was fantastic

to find this community

that wanted to help each other.

There aren't really secrets.

It's everyone wants to help

letterpress printing survive,

and so everyone's willing

to help each other out,

be it by finding equipment

or teaching a technique

or learning a new process

or talking about how to mix ink.

Everybody helps each other.

Letterpress printing, as it

became an art form or a craft,

it still has that limited

constraint of working

with the wood and the metal

and the wood and metal type

and the ornaments,

and your collection

tends to influence

your aesthetic as a shop.

If you think of someone like

Hatch Show Print down

in Nashville, Tennessee,

they're using blocks

that might have been used

on a Johnny Cash poster,

and now they're being used

on a contemporary

country music poster,

and to think about

that collection is then

influencingyour aesthetic.

When I started to acquire type,

I became very interested

in wood type.

I love the beauty

of the letters.

I love that so many of the

wood-type fonts were made over

100 years ago and we're still

able to use them today.

I like how big

and bold they are.

And that was just something

I really connected with.

My dad actually makes wood type

the same way

that it was produced

for hundreds of years by all

the wood-type manufacturers.

So, Hamilton Wood Type

& Printing Museum --

Most people have seen "Hamilton"

on a little drawer pull.

That's that group.

They made type using this

pantograph method, which is

a dual tracer and router,

and so you trace the pattern

of the letter or the ornament,

decorative ornament,

and then it cuts the type

out of end-grain maple.

And a lot of my style

and aesthetic came from the fact

that my dad,

Scott of Moore Wood Type,

started making type

the historic way.

And so I started really

exploring how these ornaments

could be used to create form

and solids, and even letter

forms and characters.

And so, I really like to use

my dad's ornaments

as a main component of my work.

But I love the traditional tools

of letterpress printing --

the wood and the metal type.

The metal type's really small

and can get this very crisp

line, and some of the fonts are

only available in wood and


They never made it to the

computer, which is just special.

And I just love the history

that you know is in every

letter that you're setting.

It's been used before, and so

being able to give it life by

continuing to print with it is

just something that I connect to

as a tool and as my main driving

force of my aesthetic as a


[ Whirring ]

[ Metal clanking ]

Letterpress printing

in a lot of ways

is almost meditative.

You become one with the press

that you're using, and if it's

your own press especially,

you start to hear and know the

quirks of the press,

and they all have

their own sound.

You know, each press has its own

rhythm and music to it.

And especially when you're

running one of the larger

presses, like my

Chandler & Price C&P

with the flywheel,

you can feel that motion,

and I stand against it,

and you just -- you're a part

of the rhythm of the printing.

And so you're

feeding it the paper,

and it continues to run,

and you hear the "cha-chink,

cha-chink" of the cast iron,

or you hear the little

glitches of the gears.

And it's a wholly

immersive experience,

and it really makes you

slow down because you can't go

faster than the press.

After getting

my very first press,

I had a business for about

a year trying to sell

commercial work, and that just

really wasn't for me.

I tried to do the craft fairs

and the art fairs,

and I just really loved making,

and I really loved people.

And so I came back

to my alma mater,

where I received my undergrad

in graphic design,

and they had a letterpress shop

that was sitting unused.

And so I had the opportunity

to teach a class,

to teach students how to be

letterpress printers,

which, quite honestly,

I was still learning myself

and continue to today.

And I started teaching

letterpress as an elective,

and I had a great -- I mean,

I had great groups of students

for every semester.

So, nine years, every semester,

we've offered letterpress

printing, sometimes

multiple sections.

It's wonderful to watch my

students pull their first print,

because they pull that first

print off the press,

and just kind of a light

goes on.

Watching them discover

how fascinating letterpress

printing can be is immensely

satisfying and joyful for me.

"Pressing On:

The Letterpress Film" is a

documentary about the survival

of letterpress printing, and

specifically the community that

have kept it alive.

It is both the older generation

that held on to the equipment

and the knowledge through a time

when letterpress printing

was not popular,

and also the new generation that

are continuing to keep it going.

So, I would say I'm a member of

the new generation,

and as I became

a part of the community

and started to make these

connections with these 70-

and 80-year-old printers,

I knew that that knowledge

was gonna get lost if we didn't

record it in some way.

Through making the film,

I got to see the way

letterpress had been a part

of all of these people's lives

since they were young.

So, some of the older printers

in the community had become --

had become apprentices when

they were 12 or 15 years old,

with their families.

And so I got to hear the way

that letterpress printing

had driven their life path

and how special it is

to them to know that there's

a young generation that still

cares about this process,

This medium, this trade

that they love.

The printers that held

this knowledge, a lot of it

was never recorded in books.

I've taken on this role

as educator and filmmaker

and created

a shop at a university,

and they seem to connect to it,

and so many of them have gone on

to actually buy their own

presses, which I never imagined.

You know, I -- I love

that it's a part of their lives,

but now they have

their own presses that they're

learning how to use and learning

their presses' quirks.

And I love to see

that engagement and that they

want to continue to help be a

part of the letterpress


Using letterpress printing

equipment is what's keeping it


Having a wood-type font

sit in a drawer

or behind glass somewhere

isn't gonna keep it going.

When you're continuing

to print it,

it not only is putting

oil back into the wood

and keeping those characters

in good condition,

but by printing it, you're then

sharing it with more people,

which is keeping letterpress

printing alive.

So it's both the use and

the people that are continuing

to keep letterpress going.

>> For more information,

visit erinbeckloff.com.

And now, here's

the Artist's Quote of the Week.


At the Massachusetts Museum

of Contemporary Art,

artists are given the space

to display monumental works

that may not find a home

anywhere else.

Singer/songwriter Annie Lennox

is just one artist exploring

her life journey through

an installation at the museum.

Let's take a look.

>> ♪ I've got so little left to

lose ♪

♪ That it feels just like

♪ I'm walking on broken glass

>> She is a singer

and songwriter of soulful

and palpable depth.

Annie Lennox's career can be

easily recorded in awards

and some 90 million albums sold.

But at MASS MoCA,

the Massachusetts Museum

of Contemporary Art,

we find her life lived and left.

>> Annie is Scottish

and is thinking about

the form of a burial mound

as a space where we place

objects after people die.

>> Alexandra Foradas is

a curator at MASS MoCA,

where Lennox approached

the museum a year ago about

creating this installation,

a giant dirt mound crowned

with a piano.

Lennox describes it as,

"A dreamscape of memory

made manifest."

>> You are first faced

with objects from Annie's past

as a music maker,

and as you move around

the mound, it gets

increasingly personal.

>> Lennox has titled the piece

"Now I Let You Go,"

a decidedly definitive title

for someone who continues

to wrestle with her bond

to material memories.

And what material she has.

You'll find David Bowie here,

and her own lyrics.

There are mementos of her work

as an activist fighting HIV

and AIDS in Africa.

Closer to home,

her children's shoes.

>> She wishes that

everyone could have a mound.

This idea that we don't have

a way of metabolizing memory,

of working through the objects

that are left behind.

>> But not all of us can be

as sparkly as Annie Lennox,

whose mound shimmers.

>> Annie talked about the mound

as looking like a performer,

standing under a spotlight

onstage, wearing something

glittery, and that notion of

the mound as a performer,

the knowledge that sharing these

things and being vulnerable

in this way is in its own way,

a performance.

>> MASS MoCA's a place that

people come to experience


They wear it like clothes.

>> Joseph Thompson is the

founding director of MASS MoCA.

He opened the place in 1986

in a series of brick factory

buildings that once served

as a textile mill

and later an electronics plant.

Today, it's where art and ideas

are made unlike anywhere else.

Since it doubled in size

two years ago,

this has become the museum where

artists come to create work

that often can't be shown

anywhere else,

sometimes because of size,

often for audacity.

>> This is not necessarily

a perfectly polite place,

where the walls are white,

and the light

is coming in from above,

and the guards are dressed up

in suit and tie.

You get to work for it here

just a little bit.

MASS MoCA rewards curiosity.

>> Is "museum" the right word

for this space?

>> No, this is not a museum.

I don't know what it is.

I mean, we stick with that word

because it's in "MASS MoCA."

It's a center.

It's a lab.

It's two turntables

and a microphone.

>> [ Chuckles ]

Right now, you'll find mammoth

sculptures by late artist

Louise Bourgeois,

a fully immersive and enveloping

series of light installations

by James Turrell,

and more mounds,

these from the mind of artist

Trenton Doyle Hancock.

>> If there's anything that's

our specialty at MASS MoCA,

it's providing space and time

to artists with big ideas.

>> Trent takes us into the


The Moundverse is a space

that he created, beginning with

Torpedo Boy when he was 10,

who is sort of the Superman

to his Clark Kent.

>> A world all his own,

the Moundverse is charted out

along a Candy Land-like lane

in MASS MoCA's largest gallery,

one nearly the size

of a football field.

The mounds,

according to Hancock,

are depositories for memories

and bits of discarded humanity.

For children of the 1980s,

it's a colorful climb

into nostalgia.

>> Trent is drawing on

everything from

the Cabbage Patch Kids

and the Garbage Pail Kids to

the Marvel Cinematic Universe,

to Greek gods.

He is reaching back not only

into the depths of his memory --

back to his childhood in Paris,

Texas, as the child of a family

of evangelical Baptists --

but also back into mythology.

>> Now 35 years into her career,

artist Jenny Holzer has long

ruminated over language.

>> She is interested in the way

that language is read

differently based on context

and also material.

>> In this installation


she returns to painting.

Her focus here -- government

documents obtained through

the Freedom of Information Act.

>> The texts are referring

to violence as a wish list

for interrogation techniques,

or they are referring to abuses

obliquely as "treatment."

So it is this kind of, um --

this way of using language

to shield rather than to


>> How political is the work?

>> Extremely political.

The work deals, in terms of

its subject matter, with

the lead-up to the attacks on

September 11th, fundamentalism,

and the violent tendencies

that might arise out of it.

And from there, she moves on to

the alleged abuses of detainees

at Guantanamo Bay.

>> At MASS MoCA,

it's a moment of memories,

from the harvesting

to the harrowing.

>> For more about the museum,

go to massmoca.org.

Now here's a look

at this month's Fun Fact.



Baltimore, Maryland-based

artist Abraham Burickson

is co-founder and artistic

director of Odyssey Works,

striving to challenge

traditional notions

of experience design

and the artist-audience


Up next, we check out

the Odyssey Works Box,

a kind of personalized

treasure hunt designed to lead

to creative experiences.

>> Odyssey Works is

a performance company

that makes weekend-long,

week-long, months-long

performances for one-person


I started doing Odyssey Works

because I was a poet,

an architect,

and I was concerned with

the fact that you create

a piece of work,

it goes out into the world,

and some people get it,

and other people have

a totally different experience

of it than you were intending.

And I got together

with my friend Matthew, and...

we said, "What if we just found

that one person who got it and

made our work just for them?"


>> Okay. Big reveal.

>> What is the Odyssey Works


It's -- It's a tour through our


>> Here we have the USB drive.

We'll get the audio tour.

>> And all the instructions

are right there.

And we wanted people

to have an experience of our art

that wasn't watching a video

or reading a book.

And that's my favorite,

I have to admit.

Something that was

tactile and human,

something that brought you

deeply into this way of working.

It's its own performance.

So, you open the box,

you take off the lid,

and there it is.

It's this treasure that you've

found -- like a buried treasure.

You have a book, and this book

was made for the piece.

It was a forgery

of an Italo Calvino book.

The stories are symmetrical

and lovely.

It's the Bologna --

everything beautiful,

everything symmetrical --

and it becomes baloney.

The stories fall apart.

They become images.

Even the page numbers fall off.

Messy stuff, our kind of work.

And we wanted to make a piece

that connected the two.

This was the DNA.

Diagrams themselves --

they're our scripts.

That's Carl's diagram --

mind, body over time.

The aim is the exact same aim

that I think most artists have,

which is to create

a deeply-felt experience

just to see the world see you.

>> To see more,

visit odysseyworks.org/about.

And here's a look at this week's

Arts History.



A sculptor in the Detroit,

Michigan, area

shares her passion

for her work with children

and adults through community

workshops and her whimsical

and functional creations.

Here's a look.


>> I'm just a middle-aged lady

doing her thing.

I always had art

involved in my life.

I always had pottery to

fall back on as my hobby,

and through the years, it's just

developed into more and more

and more of a passion,

and now it's my livelihood.


I opened my own studio

in September of 2015.

I was fortunate enough

to be one of the first ones

through the door

when they turned PARC into

an arts and recreation complex.

When I do my work,

it's really fun,

and every one is different.

There are no two pieces alike.

A lot of my work is whimsical

as well as serious,

and I just love to watch people

look at the pieces

that are there and giggle.

That's what I want.

I want them to make it

part of their daily grin,

have fun with it.

I think we don't

get enough grins and giggles

because we're always,

in these times,

searching for something more.

"I got to do more.

I got to go more.

I have to be more."

So, for people to pause and look

at a piece that I've created

and get a smile from it,

I think it's better health --

mental health for everybody.

I find my inspiration for my

work in a lot of different


I love making high-relief tiles,

and I also love nature,

so the tiles that I make

are a series of wildflowers

for the Great Lakes.


Fish are kind of my thing.

I like to carve fish

and do those on my lanterns.


The other functional pieces

that I make are big bowls.

I have things called

"grate plates" because

you can grate garlic and ginger

and nutmeg in these plates,

and their oil-dipping dishes

kind of go along with that.

So, the work that goes

into my sculptures

and functional pieces --

Almost all of them are thrown

at the potter's wheel,

and then they're all altered.

The Man in the Moons that I

make -- Throw those at the

wheel, then I will create the


And every one's done


For the big sculptures

and the big carvings,

the lanterns that I like to do,

those can take up to 20 hours

to create.

So, it's weeks of work

that it takes to go into those.

Then they're hopefully dried

properly, and then they get

fired once, they get glazed,

and then fired again.

My favorite thing would be

carving lanterns,

both tall ones and small ones.

I like to draw on them first --

and those drawings can take me

four or five hours --

then carve them,

then embellish them.

So, it's just a labor of love.

I've come up with a vase that

I haven't seen anywhere else,

and it's taking into it

part of my carving

and part of my cutting away,

so it looks kind of like

a lantern, but it's a vase.

There's a lot of people who say

that when you're making,

you get into a zone,

and it's so true with pottery.

You start working,

and you get in a zone.

It just makes life better for


I never thought that I would get


I always knew

in the back of my mind

that this is what I would

eventually like to do,

and just didn't ever see it

as coming to fruition

at this scale.


Have known for a long time

that I wanted to teach,

and wanted to teach kids,

and I just decided

it was time to do that.

So we can go right off the seam.

Is that good?

>> Yeah.

>> Those that can attend

the art camps are anybody

from 6 to 17 years old.

I have different camps

for different age groups,

and I have different themes

for each week.

The theme for this camp

was cartoon sculptures,

and so today,

they were making a mug,

and then they were putting

a cartoon character on there.

The kids in camps get

the basic instructions of how to

put the piece together.

After that,

they can do their own thing.

>> I wanted to come to this camp

because it's fun to play with


>> I like that you can sculpt it

in any way you want.

If you're thinking of something,

you can pretty much do it.

>> I like how it feels.

It kind of feels like slime.

And I like to just play with it

and kind of make stuff with it.

>> I think that you really gain

a lot of life skills

when you're making art,

or when you're making.

And in this day and age

where a 6-month-old

knows how to use a phone,

I think that we're getting away

from knowing how

to use our hands

and knowing how to make things.

And that's what art brings

to the table.

And it goes back to allowing

kids to understand success

and allowing kids

to make their own mark

in the world through their art.

>> I thought it was really fun

to do Mickey Mouse for the mug,

'cause I really wanted to

make it funny and artistic.

>> And the smaller this loop,

the better, because it gets

real fragile.

>> If you want to make

something, she really tries

to make it happen, and she helps

you out with everything.

>> Use this part of your hand,

and roll in on there,

give it a little smush.

Yes, ma'am.

>> I made Bill Cipher

from "Gravity Falls"

and a whistle that's a bird.

>> I made a sculpture yesterday

of Mr. Krabs,

and I made a whistle,

and it was a fish.

>> I'm proud.

I think they turned out

pretty good,

so I'm happy with them.

>> That wraps it up for this

edition of "WLIW Arts Beat."

We'd like to hear what you

think, so like us on Facebook,

join the conversation on

Twitter, and visit our web page

for features and to watch

episodes of the show.

We hope to see you next time.

I'm Diane Masciale.

Thank you for watching

"WLIW Arts Beat."

Funding for "WLIW Arts Beat"

was made possible

by viewers like you.

Thank you.








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