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Full collection of artist’s prints on display at WVU

Photo submitted to The Times West Virginian  The Grace Martin Taylor exhibit opens Friday at the Deem Print Gallery in the Art Museum of West Virginia University. Taylor was born near Morgantown and graduated from WVU.
Photo submitted to The Times West Virginian
The Grace Martin Taylor exhibit opens Friday at the Deem Print Gallery in the Art Museum of West Virginia University. Taylor was born near Morgantown and graduated from WVU.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A full collection of prints, from 1925 to 1958, by a famous West Virginia artist will be on display in the Art Museum of West Virginia University.

“Studio Window: The Prints of Grace Martin Taylor” exhibition opens on Friday in the Deem Print Gallery.

Taylor is considered one of America’s innovative printmakers of the 20th century.

“Grace Martin Taylor (1903-1995) was born near Morgantown and graduated from WVU,” Charlene Lattea, public relations coordinator at the Art Museum of WVU, said. “She spent most of her life in Charleston, where she taught at Morris Harvey College, now the University of Charleston.”

From 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, the public is invited to view the exhibit. Wine and refreshments will be served in the Museum Education Center Grand Hall, where there will also be musical entertainment by a WVU jazz ensemble.

“These are all the color woodblock prints from Grace Martin Taylor,” art museum curator Robert Bridges said. “These are what are called white-line woodblock prints.”

Bridges said the paintings are all part of the university’s collection now.

“When Grace Martin Taylor died in 1995, she left behind a large body of work created over a long career. Now, thanks to the generosity of her daughter, Lucie Mellert, Taylor’s art will be available to a broad public audience,” said art museum director Joyce Ice in the event’s press release.

Bridges said the style of prints is made differently than most color prints like a Japanese print.

“Most prints, you have to have a separate block for every color that you are going to print,” he said. “But the way these artists work is they take a tool and they cut little v grooves (in the wood block) throughout their composition and that v groove creates a white line. They white line is just the paper showing through.”

Thumbtack holes are at the top of the wooden block, which is how the paper was attached to the block.

“They attach it and they fold it over,” Bridges said. “Any time they go to print, it always falls back in the exact same spot. Instead of like most prints you would ink up the surface and just print it, here they paint in the color and they use watercolor.”

Bridges said the process is rare because it is more like a painting then a print.

“They have the print matrix, but it would take them sometimes up to a full day to do a single print,” he said. “They didn’t do editions. They didn’t say ‘I am going to 25 of these’ and print them like they would do a normal print so they just kind of did them while they went along. … So there weren’t really many made. It is rare for any museum to have the whole body of work.”

This rare opportunity is the first time that a complete set of her 50 works have all have been exhibited.

“I think it is a once-in-a-lifetime event to be able to see all of these prints together,” Bridges said. “It is important for people to see how an artist approaches a particular medium or subject matter. And (also) to see like years of study and development, and you can see them all together in one location is a rare opportunity for people.”

 On top of the rare opportunity, Bridges said Taylor’s works are beautiful.

“It is a process that I think a lot of people are unfamiliar with but it gives such beautiful results,” he said. “It is not something that caught on and continues. There are only half a dozen people still making prints like this.”

According to the press release, since her death, Taylor’s art has been exhibited widely, most notably at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Academy of Design, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the British Museum.

“I really try to encourage your readers to come out and see the exhibitions and come in and see the other exhibitions as well,” Bridges said. “We are very proud of this exhibition as well as the donor, the daughter of Grace Martin Taylor.”

The Art Museum and Museum Education Center are located near the corner of Patteson Drive and Morrill Way at the Evansdale Campus North Entrance.

For more information about the Grace Martin Taylor print exhibition or the opening event on Sept. 16, contact the Art Museum of WVU at 304-292-7790.

Email Kelsie VanderWijst at [email protected].

To see more from The Times West Virginian, click here. 

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