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Betsy Bowen printmaking exhibition opens, lecture slated Feb. 21 at Cultural Center

An example of a Betsy Bowen print

Betsy Bowen will mount an exhibition of her colored woodblock prints at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center from February 17-March 29 at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center Gallery.

She will give a lecture and book-signing event on Saturday, February 21 at 7 p.m.

The following is a statement by Ms. Bowen:

"The aim of an artist is to make people love life," said Tolstoy, and I agree.

I live and work on the edge of the wilderness near Minnesota´s north shore of Lake Superior, on the old homestead bought by my suburban parents in 1963 to establish another way of life. In my early creative years, I focused on hand made crafts. My work in woodblock printmaking has continued the ethic of seeking a straightforward livelihood generated by making goods by hand. The prints have recently focused on illustrations for picture books, written by myself and others.

My topics have evolved from views of my local rural life into the folktales and stories that inform rural lives worldwide. Recent interest in the oral tradition of these folktales has led me toward pageantry, creating puppets, scripts, and staging for community street theater and dance performances.

I have been woodblock printing actively since 1985, in recent years having the good fortune to write and illustrate several picture books: Antler, Bear, Canoe: A Northwoods Alphabet Year in 1991; Tracks in the Wild in 1993; Gathering: A Northwoods Counting Book in 1995; Shingebiss, An Ojibwe Legend in 1997; A Wild Neighborhood in 1997; and The Troll With No Heart In His Body by Lise Lunge-Larson in 1999."

The woodblock print is created by first carving the design into a flat plank of white pine. A separate woodblock is carved for each color in the design. Betsy often uses five blocks for each print. The prints for Shingebiss were prepared using the reduction method of woodblock printing, in which a single block of wood is further carved after each color is printed to produce multiple layers of color. Betsy does additional hand coloring to further enhance some of her prints.

Betsy considers woodblock printing to be her mother tongue. What began with her first woodblock print a dozen or so years ago has steadily evolved into the Bowen family business. While Betsy is still the one carving the key blocks, her son Jeremy has taken a major role at the press as master printer.

Betsy and Jeremy now have a studio in Grand Marais, with their own Vandercook press.