This week, esteemed printmaker Lisa Bulawsky visited Bowdoin to spend time in the studio teaching and collaborating with the Printmaking I classes. After a week of instruction and group discussions, the classes will install a set of portrait prints that memorialize figures known and unknown.

As part of the Marvin Bileck Printmaking Project, which brings a guest artist to campus for one week every semester, Bulawsky came to Bowdoin from the Sam Fox School at Washington University in St. Louis where she is an associate professor. She gave a lecture on September 29 and has been working with each of the two sections of Printmaking I with Assistant Professor of Art Carrie Scanga.

For Bulawsky, working with students at a small liberal arts college has been a change of pace from working at a larger university.

“I know there are a lot of environmental studies and earth and oceanographic science students, so it’s great,” said Bulawsky. “Most of the students I work with back at Wash U. are art students, that’s their major.”

“As you’re working she’ll step over your shoulder and tell you, ‘by the way I love your strokes here’ and, ‘just add a little bit of texture here and there,’” said Lizzy Takyi ’17, who has not yet declared a major. “It’s so great to have her here.”

“It’s been really fun because everybody’s really fresh to printmaking,” said Bulawsky. “There’s a lot of amazement about the processes and the way things turn out.”

With Bulawsky, the students are learning a new technical process: collagraph, in which texture is built up on a plate with different media.

“It’s a different perspective in terms of techniques,” said Karla Olivares ’17. 

Bulawsky is leading the students in a conceptual project about memorialization and contemporary memorials, exploring the theme of how to honor both public and private figures.

“The students have been intentionally working on something that would be aesthetically and conceptually unified,” said Scanga. “This week they’ve all been working on their puzzle piece of this larger installation project.”

Subjects of the portraits include Martin Luther King, Jr., Bob Marley, and the last code-speaker of the Navajo language.

“I have talked to a few people about who they specifically have been honoring and I’ve just been blown away by the thoughtfulness,” said Bulawsky.

Although Printmaking I is an introductory visual arts class, and usually begins at the point of technique or art history, this project requires students to think more critically about the ideas behind a piece.

“We’re starting at the point of concept, which is an upper-level way of thinking about art,” said Scanga.

“I've found this melancholy about how it feels to have a story behind the art, and not just do it because it’s your project,” said Takyi. “That’s what she’s bringing to this project.”

“We have been starting our classes with conversation,” said Scanga, who added that the students were assigned to read an article on public memorials before Bulawsky first arrived. “The neat thing is that those discussions get nicely woven in with the technical aspect of what we’re doing.”

“This project is very much in line with the kinds of things I make work about, said Bulawsky. “I make work about how our individual and cultural memories define who we are and create our identities.”

Bulawsky said she is fascinated by this idea of memory.

 “[Memory is] who we choose to remember as a culture and who we choose to remember as individuals, who gets commemorated and monumentalized and who gets forgotten,” she said. 

“It’s been so inspirational to learn from her directly knowing that she’s been doing this for so long,” said Takyi.

“Hopefully the outcome will be as great as the process has been,” said Scanga.

The 36 students from the classes—as well as Bulawsky—will be installing their portraits in the Fishbowl Gallery of the Visual Arts Center Friday at 11:00 a.m. The installation process—the creation of a spontaneous and vernacular memorial—will be focused on the performative act of placing the image.  Each piece will be accompanied by a small description of the person honored in the print.