In the summer of 2004, two years after graduating from Bowdoin, visual arts major Kyle Durrie '02 faced an inspirational lull that would later be recognized as the revolutionary turning point in her creative process.

"I was at an artist residency in Skowhegan and I started having a hard time figuring out what I was doing. I'd just had a show in Portland, Maine at Space Gallery and I was really proud of the works I'd put up."

"When I went back to the studio, though, I was empty. I found myself thinking, 'There's nothing in me right now,' and I just didn't want to work and I began to reconsider my whole relationship to making art."

For Durrie, that relationship had begun during her years at Bowdoin. Although she arrived at Bowdoin with a preliminary interest in art history, early experiences in the visual arts quickly reeled her in.

"It was really [Lecturer of Art] John Bisbee's sculpture class my freshman year that made me switch gears. I'd come into college thinking I can't really study art—and it was Bisbee's class that changed that really fast," said Durrie.

"It was his charisma as a teacher, of course. But even more so, it was his total emphasis on materials and process. In high school, art classes were just so product oriented—you make something, you come away with something. Bisbee's idea was so much more about the process. What you came away with was something different. That completely blew my mind and has definitely stuck with me."

While studying art at Bowdoin, Durrie found herself gravitating toward drawing and printmaking classes. Specifically, Durrie noted that she found the relationship between professor and student especially formative and enlightening in these classes.

"We were treated as peers by our art professors," Durrie explained, pointing out the close bond she formed working with Professor of Visual Arts Mark Wethli throughout her time at Bowdoin.

After this rich introduction to art during her early years at Bowdoin, Durrie opted for a non-traditional study abroad experience during her junior year. Although originally traveling to Florence and enrolling in a studio art program, within two weeks she realized it wasn't the experience she was looking for and decided to take time off and travel instead.

Upon returning to Bowdoin for her senior year, Durrie found herself to be positively affected by her unfettered experience abroad, coming back very much prepared to dive in.

Thus, Durrie began work on her culminating independent study with Wethli and Bisbee in which she produced a large installation for the Fishbowl Gallery.

The project was comprised of paintings on huge sheets of paper that covered the walls much like wallpaper. The paintings were zoomed in depictions of construction sites, focusing on their industrial intricacies.

"It almost read as an abstraction until you stepped back into the quad," Durrie said. "I'd really never worked on something of that scale before, but I'd had this obsession with the decaying buildings and the effect of age."

"Mark and John were both so helpful in pushing me to grapple with these visual ideas and understand that sense of scale and be able to negotiate things spatially," she added. "They were also very hands off because they really understood how committed I was and how hard I was working on this."

Following graduation, Durrie enrolled in several residencies in which she continued to make art that was an extension of her independent study project.

It was this work that Durrie showed in Portland's Space Gallery during the summer of 2004. And it was upon completing and showing this work that Durrie realized that she had become uninspired by the gallery world.

"I still really liked, and continue to like, those pieces. I still see the passion in them and I still 100 percent believe in them. But I also felt like I wasn't sure what drawing meant to me anymore," Durrie said. "I felt like I shouldn't be thinking about galleries or about getting my work in the galleries—that wasn't really the important question. What I should be thinking about was what I felt about making art more broadly. I had a big question mark in my head for a longtime. I needed a change."

With that motivation, Durrie moved across the country at the end of 2005, leaving Portland, Maine for Portland, Oregon, taking advice from Bowdoin's then Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Anna Hepler, who had become a mentor figure for Durrie while she lived in Portland, Maine.

"[Hepler] really planted this seed in her love for Portland, Oregon and letterpress printing. And so I moved across the country and there I was, unemployed, in the middle of the winter and so I took a letterpress class and just three hours in I realized it was something I wanted to do and could do for a very long time."

At a time when she was struggling with what art really meant for her, that process gave Durrie a concrete structure to hold on to.

"It was really important for me—having to learn how to do something and still have room to be creative. It was very inspiring. It was four years ago at this point and something that I'm still learning about and inspired by when I go into the studio."

Since that first class, Durrie has delved deeply into the world of letterpress printing and has started her own printing business, Power and Light Press, which generates her small-scale designs including posters, greeting cards, wedding invitations and CD covers.

"Gradually, I made the transition to more commercial work," Durrie said. "I realized that I wanted to go back to the place where I was just making stuff and doing what I enjoy."

"I have a more critical approach now than I ever did before. It's still a struggle some times, understanding what I'm doing, but I think of it as doing more design now than art, design being art that serves a purpose and not just putting out ideas for discussion," said Durrie.

"I really just want to find something and some way of creating something that is meaningful to me. I want to make art more accessible and less about the pretense."