Featured Artist: Maria Doering
I am pleased to introduce you to Maria Doering, a professional artist and printmaker from Canada that I had the pleasure of interviewing this month. She resides in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia where she creates art and teaches as well. Below, you can read her full interview.
What is it that you do? What's the drive behind the work?
I am a multidisciplinary fine artist and printmaker with an intense focus on the human body throughout my various bodies of work. I have struggled with allergies from a young age, and as a result I live with a heightened awareness of my body and its inner workings. This awareness has informed my artistic practice for many years. Each of us forms one unified system: organs, thoughts, blood vessels, emotions, nerves and sensations. While language separates concepts of body and mind I know them to be one, and my work aims to break down the barriers between one and the other. Our bodies are each a totality, a mystery to ourselves that I try to discover, solve, resolve, dissolve. Trying to visualize what the inside feels and looks like congers for me hundreds of layers of patterns and textures that are intricate, complex, dense and beautiful. I call this pattern work “lacery,” and it is present in one form or another in nearly all of my current work.
So, what is your preferred medium and subject matter?
Tricky question as I am an artist who fluidly switches between different media. I paint, draw, embroider, knit, create giant 3D installation pieces and, of course, I make lots of prints.
Focusing on print specifically, I love lithography, screen printing, monotype and relief (and combining them.) My most recent major body of work focused solely on linocut, with pieces ranging from 3 to 38 inches. My subject matter has always been the human body. I went from working literally with portraits and nudes to now conceptualizing the cells we are made of/that make us who we are.
Can you tell me a bit more about the series of prints you submitted for this interview?
These pieces are from my “Cells, Souls and Personalities” body of work. What would we find if we viewed our personalities, minds and souls through a microscope? What does confidence, ambition or courage look like on a cellular level? What is the cellular make up of a soul? Our body and soul, the intangible mind and the physical vessel of our bodies. Together, they make us who we are. If we could visualize both, what would they look like?
For six years and counting, I have explored the complex patterns and textures that make up a person. I call this layered pattern work “Lacery”, and it is my attempt to visualize what is going on beneath the surface, to answer the question of what we are made of beyond just flesh and bone. Lacery is about imagining the sum total of a person’s character, physicality, feelings, illnesses, energies, difficulties and ideas. It is my attempt at a visual representation of the internal dialogue which takes place in all of us.
The “Cells, Souls and Personalities” series of linocuts gives these intangibilities a voice, to bring them to the surface and anchor them in the visible world. It is a journey deep into the Lacery of a person, distilling it to a single cellular level. What would the smallest part of this complex Lacery be made of? A single cell. A creative cell. An adventurous cell. An ambitious cell. Possibly a courageous cell.
How did you get started with Printmaking?
When I was in high school, I hugely disliked printmaking and some of that I blame on the way it was taught. So when I arrived at art school to do my BFA, I thought painting would be the way to go. It turned out I really disliked people telling me “what” to paint as all I was interested in was the figure. So walking down the hallway one day I saw a showcase of lithographs and it was love at first sight.
My first proper introduction to printmaking was through my Intro to Lithography class with Fred Wessel. I fell in LOVE with everything printmaking. The next class I took was relief printmaking, and after some initial resistance it quickly became one of my favorite techniques. I finished my BFA from Hartford Art School in Connecticut with a major in printmaking and followed this with an MFA concentration in print media from Concordia University in Montréal.
What is the thing that you love most about Printmaking?
The ability to create multiples and the physicality and challenge to the body that the techniques and repetitive nature presents. I also love the step by step processes. You don’t need inspiration to go through those processes, you can trust in them, to me they are a nice buffer between myself and the final outcome.
What is the thing that you struggle with most in your Printmaking?
Knowing when to stop and take breaks. Printmaking is hard work and taking breaks, having a snack, etc. is important! 90% of all mistakes I make in print are related to me being tired or hungry.
The other thing I struggle with is the toxicity of many printmaking techniques, especially working the “old way”. Having asthma and allergies, these days I can’t handle being in a printshop that uses solvents without proper ventilation. I am a huge advocate of health and safety in printmaking and less toxic alternatives. During grad school I was always referred to as “the canary in the coal mine” because I would be the first to notice when someone spilled a solvent or forgot to turn the vent on.
Now I prefer to work in studios and do residencies in places that have adapted safer printmaking techniques. My health is important to me and I hope to make prints until I am 100 years old. If you are interested in safer techniques, check out Zea Mays Printmaking in Massachusetts; they are doing phenomenal research and development in safer practices and alternatives.
Is printmaking/art what you do full-time? If so, how did you start out? At what point did you realize this was something that could sustain you, and what was that like?
For many years I made art and had a crappy side job to pay the bills. Over the last year I have taken the plunge and am dividing my time 100% between making art and being an art instructor with the end goal of selling more work while teaching less, and more selectively. My goal has always been to be able to take that plunge eventually. But I found that money stress would paralyze and keep me from actually making any work at all. So my strategy has been for the last 7 years to slowly build my network, connections, my CV, send out close to 100 applications to exhibitions and opportunities a year and create a ton of work while having this “crappy” side job.
I knew I was ready to take the plunge when I was getting accepted into various opportunities and the “side” job started standing in the way. Realizing this and making the decision to have a bit of faith and trust my hard work was huge for me and also scary. I do have to admit that all of this wouldn’t have been possible if my husband (the love of my life) hadn’t taken on the role of manager and put his business degree to excellent use by helping me get organized. Now, 7 years later, I have an inventory so I can track where my artwork is and how many of each edition I have left, a functional website that is easy to update and gets updated quite regularly, proper bookkeeping spreadsheets, and he helps me get those 100 applications to galleries, etc.. out the door. Pretty much, every artist needs someone like him. Without him it probably would have taken me another 7 years before I could have taken that plunge.
Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know?
A little piece of advice to pass on to other artists, which has worked for me: My goal in life is to make art sustainably every day.
This takes the crazy out of the usual definitions of success. Living by this goal has made EVERYTHING better for me because it’s a small thing I can achieve daily. All my decisions have been made around this.
Also, every opportunity I have gotten has been the result of hard work. In my experience it takes hard work to make it happen, don’t wait for things to fall in your lap.
Thank you SO MUCH to Maria for being our first interviewee. She was patient through the process of us figuring this out together. I think she brings a great perspective to the field. What an advocate for healthier printing practices! Something that all Artists should definitely be aware of in their own work.
Thanks to our readers as well, who have read this far! Please leave a comment with your thoughts and get a discussion going! This is a wonderful opportunity to bring some minds together!
If you're interested in being a featured artist, contact me at JustPrintmaking@gmail.com
I plan to feature a new artist every month through an interview process similar to this.