ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! // Suzanne Powney

15 Mar 2019 12:00 AM | Susan Viguers (Administrator)

In the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida shooting, artists looked for a way to make a difference in the conversation taking place across our nation. Ellen Knudson of Crooked Letter Press, Gainesville, FL and Lisa Beth Robinson of Somnambulist Tango Press, Greenville, NC organized the Enough is Enough! print portfolio collaboration to benefit Everytown for Gun Safety. The portfolio is a current example of book art as “an agent of social change,” to quote Johanna Drucker (The Century of Artists’ Books). Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Gun violence touches every town in America. This group seeks to take common-sense steps that will save lives and make a change as everyday Americans continue plans towards a safer future.

This series of prints works to bring the conversation to the forefront. Examples of prints that are striking and cause heartache include Jessica Peterson’s type only solution outlining a child’s early years in a timeline and how long, in contrast, the shooting took place. The timeline is heartbreaking in its minute details of motherhood, our worries, our fears, our responsibilities, all contrasting to those few seconds of a failed system. We all face risks every day with our children and her piece speaks to the profound loss when a child dies.

A piece printed by Eileen Wallace equates dots on the page to the number of shootings in the United States each year; it also relates the cranks of the press to the number of people killed between January 1, 2013 and February 15, 2018. The visual of the dots and their relationship to the labor required to produce the print leads us to imagine the repetitive motion, almost like a ticking rhythm of a clock.

These complex relationships of image and content are in contrast to the simplicity of other prints in the portfolio. In “HOME GROWN HATE,” Jarred Elrod presents the graphic symbol of a baby in an American flag holding a gun, which points to what we hold as a right from birth, the right to bear arms. The image of this right, placed in the hands of a babe, jars the viewer. Another strong print is by the artist Denise Bookwalter, in which she shows her two young daughters alone in space, at the bottom of which is the call for gun reform: “PROTECT OUR CHILDREN NOT GUNS.” Bookwalter, also in Florida, shared the loss of innocence for the students of Parkland on February 14, 2018. They will never be able to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day again. The pain of this date will be seared in their cultural awareness, as is 9/11 for all Americans. These images challenge our idea of who we are fighting for and how the future will be affected.

The poetic simplicity of the prints by Mary C. Bruno, Jessica Spring, and Dan Elliott are shown below. The target, the color red, and school-lined paper are all symbols we are familiar with and point to the need for change. The colors and minimal elements of these pages and others express a powerful call, “#NOTONEMORE.” The text on the print  that begins “You must get an education” suggests a reality that is as true today as in our history. The straightforward “FUCK YOUR G*NS” with a pointed finger speaks of the frustration of nothing changing to prevent these tragedies and to the fact that g*ns are now the dirty word in our divisive culture. All of these pieces speak to the cycle we are in of accepting gun violence as a part of our modern world.

The print by Mare Blocker with an image of Emma Gonzalez below Sister Mary Corita’s quote draws on hope in the darkness for those living through the experience of losing friends and family at the hands of a gunman. Protests and lack of action in the face of devastating loss continue to be a part of the national dialogue. A work by Andrew Huot with a map of guns in the shape of the United States with red dots representing mass shootings in the recent past and a Edna St. Vincent Millay poem points to our becoming desensitized as the number of shootings continues to grow. All of these voices honor the dead and support an organization that works to implement meaningful change.

The creators of the idea for Enough is Enough! print portfolio created a strong call for gun control. Lisa Beth Robinson of Somnambulist Tango Press calls for “BAN THE 2ND” as a statement we should all consider. The right to bear arms was created in a very different time and place than where we are now as we shoot our fellow citizens. The work by Ellen Knudson of Crooked Letter Press shows the path that has resulted in America’s being compared to a war zone and the sad reality of the loss of the lives of innocents of all ages, from all walks of life. Both raise the question of why we are not doing more to make gun regulations a priority.

The techniques in the print portfolio include classic letterpress with text, linoleum cut, and screen printing. The participating artists are professionals in the field of book arts: printers, binders, educators, and fine artists. This portfolio is our offering to the future of common-sense gun safety and regulation of assault and military-style weapons. The portfolio is introduced by this cogent statement: “As artists and printers, we created this print exchange to visually address the issue of gun violence, the sale of assault weapons in the United States, and the devastation and fear the problem has brought upon the citizens of this country.” All profits from the sale of the portfolio (through Vamp and Tramp) will go to Everytown for Gun Safety.

Participating artists: Hannah Batsel; Mare Blocker — The MKimberly Press; Denise Bookwalter — Small Craft Advisory Press; Brian Borchardt & Jeffrey Morin — Seven Hills Press & Sailor Boy Press; Mary C. Bruno — Bruno Press; Dan Elliott — Pieces of Craft; Bridget Elmer — Flatbed Splendor Press; Jarred Elrod — Jet Pilot Designs; Caren Heft — Arcadian Press; Josh Hockensmith — Blue Bluer Books; Andrew Huot — Big River Bindery; Molly Kempson — Spotty Boy Press; Ellen Knudson — Crooked Letter Press; Craig Malmrose — Trade Union Press; Emily Martin — Naughty Dog Press; Penny McElroy — Five & Dime Press; Jessica Peterson — Paper Souvenir Press; Lisa Beth Robinson — Somnambulist Tango Press; Jessica Spring — Springtide Press; Ashley Taylor; Emily Tipps — High5 Press; Eileen Wallace — Mile Wide Press.

Suzanne Powney is a book artist and letterpress printer, founder of BlackDog Letterpress in 2004. She explores themes of tactility, color, and pattern in her work. She is an Associate Professor of Art at Mississippi State University.


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