CHADRON – Chadron State College Art Professor Laura Bentz and student McKensi Webel of Lincoln, Neb., recently finished their collaborative print for the Mid America Print Council Conference, the “Power of Print: Resistance and Revolution.”
Bentz was among 15 faculty and mentors from around the U.S. who were invited to contribute a collaborative print made with a novice printmaker. Shelley Gipson, a faculty member at Arkansas State University, organized the process and created the theme, Call to Action.
Bentz said selecting one student was difficult.
“Each of the students who work in printmaking media would be wonderful for this type of collaboration. I selected McKensi because she had shared her enthusiasm for printmaking (with me) and she would be available to work on the print over the summer,” Bentz said.
In February 2020, at the time of the call for entries, Bentz said there was no way to foresee how relevant the printmaking theme would become as the year unfolded. About the third week of May, Bentz and Webel began discussing what it means to be from, as well as create art in, a rural community. Webel said because of their brainstorming sessions, they chose corn as a symbol of the Midwest.
“You have tend to (corn) so it can grow and produce. I drew three ears of corn in a fluid movement to show that history repeats itself,” Webel said. “After May 25 we knew we had to make the print applicable to the times we live in.”
Bentz said George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis motivated the two artists to look deeper at the world events.
“We questioned how national and world events touch our lives. We focused on the words and phrases reverberating throughout the news media: BLM (Black Lives Matter), change, growth, renewal, evolution, All Lives Matter, equality, revolution. Those became the backdrop to the wreath of corn McKensi designed,” Bentz said.
In addition to shapes, they selected certain colors of ink to express their message.
“Red is a color that symbolizes boldness, power, and in a revolution, bloodshed. We purposely placed the pitchfork so it cuts across the corn. And it crosses the word Revolution at the letter U to draw the viewer into the message and suggests you should get involved and do something,” Webel said.
The background of their piece, “Revolution,” is composed of vertical and horizontal lines of printed words created by using layers of light and dark yellow, light blue, green, and red ink. Webel said the overall appearance resembles a cotton weave fabric or corn rows. Bentz said the lines also mimic rows of kernels on an ear of corn.
They made a total of 60 posters as they experimented with the intensity of ink and how the layers of text and art interacted with one other. They shipped their prints to Gipson in July.
Bentz and Webel will each receive an exchange portfolio of prints, while the remaining portfolios will be submitted to special collections.
This is the second collaborative print for Webel, who is a studio art major. Her first was one created with Bentz and several other students for a 2021 show in Colorado.
Her career goal is to become a forensic sketch artist. She works at the Nelson Physical Activity Center and is two years into a six-year commitment with the Army National Guard. She will graduate in December 2021. Her twin sister, McKenna, also attends CSC.
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