Posts Tagged ‘Al-Mutanabbi Street’

‘Tis the Season

Posted on: December 4th, 2017 by jmbroekman 2 Comments

‘Tis the season for giving

As often happens in December, I am cleaning out flat files. Since it is the season for gift giving, I’ve decided to give away a stack of prints. Prints that I made during a couple of different year long projects.

One of these projects, Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here, seems particularly apropos right now. These prints are about the nature of peace; how having a cup of tea with a friend nurtures a moment of tranquility in a world that seems to be going completely awry. About how the exchange of ideas over a cup of tea is one of the best antidotes we have to the divisiveness of the world around us. You can read more about this project, in an earlier blog post, which you will find here.

The other set of prints (some are on my printmaking page) were completed a couple of years ago for a show celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Peregrine Press. These prints, the Interstices Series, were about the places in between and intersections; the places where we overlap. Where we are more alike than different; and about finding middle ground.

The imagery in all of these prints address ideas about connection and communication and the increasing need to pay attention to how we connect and communicate in this digital age. The older I get, and the more the world turns in a direction that I find difficult to understand and bear, the more important I think art is – both the making and the sharing of it. As a working artist, I feel more and more responsible to put into the world some kind of antidote to the increasingly ugly vitriol.

‘Tis the season of abundance

So,if you’d enjoy an art surprise, I will randomly gift an original one-of-a-kind print to you! My hope is that by putting my work out in this way, I am actually making a difference; that I am offering something worthwhile and helping others find a moment of peace. My intention is to remind you to stop in your too-busy days and remember that quiet moments do and can exist – we just have to pay attention and watch for them, cherish them, and foster an environment that allows for them.

I have about two dozen of these prints on 15″ x 11.25″ paper to give away. No requirements, no catch. If you are so inclined to pay it forward, you can donate to a local organization helping recent immigrants, or the homeless (in Portland: Preble Street or Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project). And of course I’d love it if you subscribed to this blog, or signed up to be on my mailing list if you haven’t already done so. I post to Instagram regularly, to my blog once every couple of months, and send out a newsletter a few times a year. My goal in all these endeavors is to share my artistic investigations with you. Work that I hope brings some peace and beauty into the world.

If you’d like to receive a gifted print from me (I get to choose which one) drop me a line. If you take me up on this offer you’ll be helping make room in my flat files for new work! Thank you.

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here

Posted on: March 23rd, 2015 by jmbroekman


The Presence in Absence

That which was, but is no longer, still is. The absence of that which is no longer present and the fugitive pieces left behind has always interested me. The ghosts left on the plate, then printed; what was once blank now filled with remnants, memories. Bombs may blow up streets, bookshops, and teahouses, but they will never obliterate the stories we tell, nor the human need and desire to gather. We will continue to meet for tea, and explore the world through intellectual and creative pursuits, finding the presence in that which is absent, bringing it back to life.

Three of the final prints for this project are above. You can read more about the project and my process here, and more about the project in general here.

A Million Vessels

Posted on: March 10th, 2015 by jmbroekman 6 Comments

A few of the million vessels are above, and If you’d like to see more of the working prints (not the final prints, which I will post soon, but three of the potential sets of 5) clickHERE.

Maybe not a million, but lots and lots of them

I’ve been working for almost a year on a project that is not like anything I’ve ever worked on. That’s not to say vessels haven’t shown up in my work before, but this time it’s different. This project even has a name: Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here. You can Google it. It’s that kind of project. And since I haven’t posted anything here in a long time, and I am required to write a statement about my contribution to this project, I thought I’d work out my thoughts on this electronic piece of paper. I welcome your comments (and I warn you, this will be by far the longest entry on my news page ever).

Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here is a an international coalition of writers and artists responding to the car bombing of the literary district of Baghdad, Iraq on March 5, 2007. Beau Beausoleil, a poet and bookseller in San Francisco spearheaded this series of responses: first with letterpress broadsides, then publishing an anthology of poetry and essays, followed by 260 artists’ books, and now a call to printmakers.

Accepting the invitation to join the coalition of Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here artists was the easy part. The printmaking response, with a theme of Absence & Presence, immediately resonated. Still, I knew, right from the start this was going to be a challenge. For one thing, my work is not usually politically motivated; and then, how would I visually describe that Al-Mutanabbi Street starts wherever people gather to talk freely and exchange ideas?

My solution was to create something that spoke about time and existence; that what is here in one moment may not be here in the next. It is an idea I’ve been exploring for a very long time: how what has been, and all that we experience, shape and inform who we become and how we respond to the world around us; thus what is absent never completely disappears, but is carried forward within us through the memories we hold and stories we tell.

Why a Vessel?

I settled on an image of a vessel, a teacup, in part as representative of the tea shops destroyed in the bombing, and in part because it symbolizes one of the universal ways we share time and space – over a cup of tea.

Drawing vessels (cups, sugar bowls, and creamers) is a practice I come back to over and over again. So this project became, to a certain degree, an extension of work I had been doing. However, in this case I needed to push it a lot further. It was no longer my mother’s sugar bowl, it was a vessel that was meant to symbolize our need to communicate and connect.

Even when I finally settled on the cup as an image to work with (and it took several months to get to that point), I made more than 50 prints before I felt like I hit it. I was looking for something that both reflected some of the violence – in a very non-literal way (through the marks and color), and allowed an image to move in and out of focus – to be there and not exactly there. By using both fully inked plates and residually inked plates with ghost images I was able to let the cup move into the foreground and settle back into the background somewhat simultaneously.

Adventures in Printmaking

Usually, my prints are fodder for other work (cut up and remade into collages, or as base sheets on top of which I continue to draw). In the case of this project, I wanted to make “just prints”, which required that I go back to Printmaking 101, reminding myself to build the layers slowly, one plate at a time. The prints had to be a lot more than a bunch of random seeming marks. They had to add up to something, communicating specific ideas. This was a challenging and novel approach for me. It pushed me way beyond the edge of my comfort zone.

The requirements of the project ask for an edition of 5 prints. It is rare that I create editions. So I decided to make a series that clearly were meant to be together and thus when separated would in some very subtle way be missing something. Each print is slightly different and has some counterpart in another print in the series. You won’t necessarily know that something is missing, though you will see ghost-like images alongside the more visible vessel.

I started this project with a whole bunch of uncertainty and allowed myriad possibilities to present themselves to me. I am still intrigued by some of those unexplored possibilities, and though my prints are due in Boston this month, I suspect I’ll continue making vessels for a while longer. I am grateful to both Stephanie Stigliano for inviting me to participate in the project, and toSissy Buck (who is also a participant) for collaborating with me early on and at some point making an offhand comment suggesting I consider a vessel as a means to move forward.