Thursday, July 31, 2014

Artist Raises Linoleum to a Whole New Level

            "i learnt to sing a glad new song"
Take a good look at this image. What technique do you suppose was used to create this work of art? If you guessed woodblock printing, you’re getting close. Except rather than wood, a piece of linoleum is carved to achieve a similar effect. Yes, lowly linoleum…the stuff that covered your grandmother’s kitchen floor. Though the linoleum artist Debra Riffe uses is especially made for printmaking and is a combination of cork, linseed oil and adhesive. Riffe has taken the technique to a whole new level to create striking images that speak eloquently of themes such as social identity and sense of place. 

An exhibit of Riffe’s linoleum block prints will be on display in the Fourth Floor Gallery of the downtown Birmingham Public Library during regular library hours  until August 26. 

Titled "Every Line Tells a Story", the exhibit will also be featured at the August 7 Birmingham Art Crawl from 5 to 9 p.m., and Riffe will be on hand to greet visitors from 6 to 9 pm. The Art Crawl is a recently inaugurated monthly event which brings people to the Central City area and showcases Birmingham’s wide-ranging pool of creative talent. Art Crawl is held on the first Thursday of every month from 5-9 p.m.

“My linoleum block relief prints reflect my love for the south and all things southern. The majority of my compositions depict singular, figurative images of African Americans placed in rural settings of the American South.” Riffe states on her website.

Though born and raised in the American South, Riffe’s wide ranging world travels also inspire her art. A native of Tupelo, Mississippi, Riffe has called Birmingham, Alabama home since 1996. She completed her undergraduate degree (B.F.A.), at Howard University, College of Fine Arts, Washington, DC and worked as an art director with a Fortune 500 company. After a few years, she left the work force to travel around the Caribbean and live abroad with her family in Barranquilla, Colombia, South America. For two years, she lived on the La Guajira peninsula, located in the northernmost point of South America that borders Venezuela and the Caribbean Sea.

Creating these prints is a time-consuming process. Riffe begins with a detailed pencil drawing which is retraced onto the surface of the linoleum. She uses a variety of tools called gouges to carve away the linoleum which she does not want to show up on the print, and the surface of the linoleum that is uncut is in relief (raised). Oil-based ink is then applied to the linoleum block and a sheet of quality paper is placed upon the block and pressure is applied either manually or by using a tabletop printing press.

To learn more about Riffe and her art, visit her website:
http://www.debrariffe.com/

And check out these titles on printmaking at the Birmingham Public Library:
Non-Toxic Printmaking
Printmaking at the Edge
The Printmaking Bible
Printmaking Revolution
Relief Printmaking

"Every Line Tells A Story"
Linoleum Block Relief Prints
July 24-August 26, 2014
4th Floor Gallery
Birmingham Public Library
2100 Park Place

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