Impressions of a new medium

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AURORA | Intuition played a big part in Katie Hoffman’s shift from painting to monotype.

The Denver-based artist and graduate of Metropolitan State University has been solidly focused on the canvas for the majority of her career. Hoffman’s paintings evoke the surreal landscapes and dream-like tableaus of Marc Chagall. She cites the work of Francisco Goya as a major influence, and speaks fondly of the paintings of local artist Frank Sampson.

But her roots in the world of paint and canvas weren’t strong enough to slow her progress in the medium of monotype, a brand of printmaking that sees the artist drawing or painting on a smooth, non-absorbent surface and transferring the image to paper via a printing press. The process goes back to the 17th century, but modern artists have kept it alive, using zinc and acrylic glass.

“I am primarily a painter. I graduated with an emphasis in drawing. I even came to painting relatively late,” said Hoffman, whose monotype works form the focus of a show that kicked off last week at the Red Delicious Press in Aurora. “The monotypes, they’re sort of a lark. I wanted to try something different. I studied with (local artist) Joe Higgins. I really took to it, it’s really intuitive and really quick.”

Hoffman’s show at Red Delicious, titled simply “Monotypes,” shows that rapid and intuitive progress through a collection of 21 framed works on the wall and a collection of about 60 monotypes for sale in the gallery’s bins. Like her canvases, the monotypes explore themes rooted in storytelling and mythology. The pieces hint at biblical stories and old legends. Animals and human faces play a central role in these works, as do characters that speak of ancient mythologies.

“My usual imagery repeats itself – animals, faces. A couple of them touch on biblical themes and old stories. It’s probably part of my psyche,” Hoffman said, pointing to the piece “Mammon” as an example. The 22-inch-by-15-inch monotype with colored pencil and gold leaf illustrates a New Testament reference to material wealth and greed, a vice spelled out in the Sermon on the Mount as a false god. “It’s a face and some hands and a crown and some gold. It’s sort of like a depiction of the god Mammon … The Bible has so many stories in it. To me, there as interesting as any other stories. I grew up Methodist, my father was an atheist (but) it’s something that I’m interested in. You’ll also see images of Greek mythology.”

Giving form to those themes in the medium of monotype meant switching artistic mindsets, Hoffman said. The feel of brush on canvas was much different from the precise, functional method behind printmaking, a medium with long and rich history. Unlike other forms of printmaking, monotype does not lend itself to multiple copies of a single piece, an immediate dynamic that appealed to Hoffman.

“There’s the whole reversal process. You paint on the glass over the plastic. The entire thing is reversed. That was a challenge and a joy because there’s a surprise there,” she said. “It’s kind of a one shot thing. You have to get it right the first time.”

For Hoffman, the Red Delicious gallery was a perfect venue to spotlight and explore a fresh medium. Hoffman, who works out of a gallery in Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District, said visiting the gallery in Aurora that’s solely devoted to printmaking as an art form offered a rare opportunity.

“It seems to me that Red Delicious is unique. It’s a place where there’s a work area for the members, and a lot of hard working print makers are there,” she said. “I feel incredibly honored that they would let me in. I’m not really a printmaker. I have gotten some good feedback from other printmakers … It’s a very open form.”

 

 “Katie Hoffman: Monotypes” runs until Oct. 27 at the Red Delcious Press gallery, 9901 E. 16th Ave. in Aurora. Admission is free. Information and appointments: 303-366-2922 or reddeliciouspress.com.

 

Reach reporter Adam Goldstein at [email protected] or 720-449-9707