Printmaker Monice Morenz is in the process of cataloging 200 prints right now, and so the studio in the basement of her Scituate, MA home is “ripped apart.” To me, it looks pretty orderly and spacious. Morenz has purchased professional quality sleeves for the prints and is sorting and storing them by category.
It is always fun for me to meet other artists, see what they do, and hear about how they work. Morenz’s location was a bit distant for me to travel to at the time of this writing, so we took advantage of Skype connections in order to chat. She was able to show me the 800 square foot space she works in by carrying her laptop around with her to the different work areas. I have to admit I feel envious of the space. There are five different work tables in her studio, including an area where she can work on design-based images on her computer. There are what I consider truly textile-worthy examples of her work hanging on the walls. She is taking a course to learn to use Adobe and Illustrator (the Creative Suite 5) for textile repeats. “I wonder, do I want to start from scratch and try to put things into repeat?” she asks. “I’m giving myself a couple of years to try this. The class I’m taking is challenging.”
Many of her prints have strong graphic elements, with names that are suggestive of spiritual states—“Universal Rhythm,” “Longevity” and “Exhalation,” for example. “Titling them is always hard,” says Morenz, “but words help people connect to an image. The title usually comes at the end.” She doesn’t have a word or phrase in mind when starting a piece, but once she names them usually finds the title describes her feeling working on it. I completely relate to this concept—it usually works out the same way for me when I’m working on a piece of art.
Some of Morenz’s prints incorporate the use of stencils. She makes the stencils out of black paper, using an Exacto knife like a pencil to cut out forms (that’s right—not drawing the lines in advance). “I layer it, like a woodblock. I cut out (shapes), then print pink, then cut out more and print blue.” She tries to show me one of her stencils, but is so lacy that it can barely be lifted out of its storage drawer without damage. It is a delicate work of art in itself.
She pulls the blankets off her Takach press for me to see. Takach is an Albuquerque-based press manufacturing company. Morenz explains that having a professional press such as this one, she doesn’t have to apply so much pressure. She thinks that it would be much harder if she had to. “It’s geared like a bicycle. It’s like going uphill on a bicycle with 18 gears versus one with one gear.” These presses sell for between $3,000-$10,000. “Shipping from the New Mexico company to other parts of the company can be expensive,” she says. It was a big decision to make, but she’s happy she got it. “It’s a lifelong tool I’ll have.”
She shows me a finished print made from prints of leaves gathered from her garden. She started with picking leaves out of her garden, getting very selective about the leaves. It was a goal-driven project she thought she’d get tired of, but never did. Originally planning to use only things found in her environment, a floral arrangement gift with wide tropical plant leaves soon became an element in her work as well. She liked the form so much she bought another tropical plant and uses some of the broad leaves from it now. She flattens the leaf first in the press to get some of the moisture out and make it easier to manipulate. There are 30-some prints in her leaf series now.
“I experiment with negative/positive and with all positive, just adding layers. I’ll work in reverse, where the leaf will actually stop the color, or I’ll ink up a plate and then put the leaf on it, printing it onto another Plexiglas plate or onto paper.”
Regarding the painting “Exhalation,” (left) Morenz says, “this style is my real heart and soul.” How many times did that have to go through the press, I wonder. “Not that many – maybe five times. I make notes on the back of pieces to keep track of times pressed.”
What inspires her art? “Looking at images in books, and listening to a lot of music.” She and her husband are rock, folk and roots music fans, and she often listens to WERS or WUMB for roots and global music trends. “I need to hear a live person talking versus listening to my iTunes library,” says Morenz. She especially enjoys the music of John Hiatt, Greg Brown, and Bruce Cockburn.
She occasionally paints with oils too, and she used to do a lot of collage. “About ten years ago I had several collage shows and was very active with it.” She tends to work in themes, and her collage work usually featured human figures. Morenz tells me that sometimes she thinks about making art about social issues, but she mainly feels focused on the things she loves—shapes, color and form. What she likes to do with her art is “something that gives the eye something to enjoy, or a resting point.” She has certainly achieved those goals with me—I could happily rest my eyes on these prints for long periods of time.
I’ll visit Monice Morenz’s studio in person in the coming months for an art-in-action update. In the meantime, you can enjoy more of her works at http://www.monicemorenzstudio.com.
All images in this post copyright © Monice Morenz. No images may be used or reproduced without the artist’s permission.