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Local artist to host art gallery with Japanese-style art until March 31

Amy Grogan does Japanese-style block print art. (Amy Grogan/Courtesy photo)
Art gallery will be at the Cortez Cultural Center

Local artist Amy Grogan, who specializes in the Japanese-style art of block printing, will host an art gallery at the Cortez Cultural Center through March 31.

“It is a show highlighting my traditional block prints of the Southwestern landscape. It is a lovely show of 20 limited edition, reduction prints that I hand-carved and printed over the past two years,” Grogan said.

Block printing, which falls under the art category of printmaking, is a Japanese art technique that is just starting to make waves in the art world again, according to Grogan, who graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in 1988.

“There’s a whole tradition of it in Japan thousands of years ago, but it initially started in China, and the Europeans have a big history of it too, just with different paper,” Grogan said.

Art by Amy Grogan. (Amy Grogan/Courtesy photo)

For the art show, which is “Landscapes from the Heart: An Artist’s Connection to the Southwest Landscapes Grogan created a group of 20 landscape portraits that are inspired by Southwest Colorado. While traditional Japanese block printing is water-based ink, Grogan said she prefers to use oil-based paints for her printing.

“I like the richness and luminosity of oil-based ink,” Grogan said. “I’m just trained that way, so I just stuck with it.”

It was only in the past 10 or so years that Grogan really began studying and practicing block printing as her art medium of choice.

“I did pastels during this period of doing block printing, but in the last 10 years I solely concentrated on block printing solely,” Grogan said.

The type of printing Grogan utilizes is called reductive block printing, and it involves layering colors on a carved block to achieve the desired effect.

While some artists use multiple blocks to get multiple colors, reductive block printing slowly cuts away one block when using a new color.

“This time-consuming and complex form of printing involves layering colors from a single block by slowly reducing the block with multiple carvings and printings. Every color is printed separately, so the limited edition has to be printed all at the same time. Also the block has to be registered every time a new colored layer is printed. One block print can take as much as one to two weeks with drying times,” Grogan said.

In 2022, she was awarded first place at the Ouray Alpine Art Show and was spotlighted by ShoutOut Colorado.

Grogan and her husband moved from Wisconsin to Colorado in 1992, and Grogan worked as an intern volunteer at Canyonlands. It was here that Grogan became inspired to paint the Southwest Colorado landscapes surrounding their home in Mancos and the greater Four Corners area, even donating some of her art to nonprofits and the U.S. Forest Service to use as fundraisers over the years.

“I feel like this whole show is about my connection (to the area) and it’s in the title. I’ve been very much connected to it, and it means a lot to me too to help preserve the landscape we have out here and our public lands,” Grogan said.

“I didn’t do painting or landscape work when I was in school, not at all. When I came out here, I was just drawn to that. I’ve just been drawn to the landscape since I’ve lived out here, and the creative work I’m doing is definitely inspired by it,” Grogan said.

The show came about after the director of the Cortez Cultural Center put out a call for local artists to submit a proposal for a show for a month in 2024.

After submitting her application, Grogan found that the month of February was open, allowing her to showcase her recent block printed work, most of which have been created from 2022-2023.

“There’s maybe two pictures in there that are from 2018, but the rest are all 2022-2023, so they’re very recent,” Grogan said.

For about 30 years, block printing largely “went out of style,” with many schools getting rid of their printmaking departments because they didn’t have enrollment or interest. Now, more artists are starting to experiment with block printing, bringing it back into the art world in a meaningful way again.

“This is a beautiful medium. It’s worth having a spotlight on it,” Grogan said.

While the art is beautiful, it is a process to have a finished piece.

Grogan shared that it can take 10 days to two weeks to finish a piece with seven colors, and the piece must be created with the mirror image to create the desired image. She added that it took her two years to finish the 20 pieces that will be featured in the art show.

“I wasn’t working on it every single day, but there where blocks of time where it took me months,” she said.

While Grogan said she goes into each piece with a plan and image in mind, oftentimes the piece turns out completely different from what was in her head.

“I do take a lot of photographs, but it never looks like any of my photographs, not even close. It’s so different. It’s flatter, and it’s very textural. I really like pulling out the last color and seeing what the final print is going to look like,” Grogan said. “I don’t know till the very end what it’s ultimately going to look like, and sometimes it’s a disappointment.”

Grogan also expressed her thankfulness for being included in the project to help renovate the Cultural Center and grateful for the chance to showcase her art and highlight block printing.

“I’m so grateful that the director had the vision to renovate the cultural center,” Grogan said. “I’m really grateful that I was given this opportunity to show my work.”