Christina M. Spiker

Christina M. Spiker

Art Historian | Professor | Digital Humanist

College Art Association 2019

Well, another large national conference has come to a close. I’m amazed at how after only a few days of attendance, you begin to feel like you live at the conference… This year, the College Art Association Conference was in New York, and while exhilarating, it always leaves me a bit tired. It makes me feel my age in comparison to being young and living in Tokyo! (And New York, why do you have to be so expensive?!)

All of us waiting for the panel to begin!

I presented a paper this year on a panel titled Coloring Print: Reproducing Race through Material, Process, and Language sponsored by the Association of Print Scholars. Our panel was chaired by Christina Michelon, who did an amazing job. The panel featured papers by Annika Johnson, Melanee Howard, Holly Shaffer, and myself. Some of the themes that stood out to me across the whole panel were: preservation/salvage, fragmentation, print circulation’s role in shaping memory (during life and after death), repetition in reproduction, romantic ideals, systems of print and circulation, genealogies of images, the construction of story/myth, and the role of imagination. In addition, I can’t help but smile inside at this photograph of us all —5 female scholars—getting ready to talk about topics crucial to our research. I find it fairly rare in my sub field (usually, my co-presenters are male), so I couldn’t help but take notice of the image.

It is REALLY hard to look good in a photograph taken mid-presentation! But thank you to Steve Burges for taking this one 😉

I also attended some really great Japan-related panels during the conference including Race and Modern and Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture (sponsored by JAHF with presentations by Sabine Fruhstuck, Chinghsin Wu, Ayelet Zohar, and Jennifer Robertson); Dirt, Mud, Sand, Sludge (that had a presentation by my dissertation advisor, Bert Winther-Tamaki), and Asian Diasporic Art and the Narrative of Modernism (sponsored by Diasporic Asian Art Network with papers by Tom Wolf, Margo L. Machida, and SooJin Lee). I also got a chance to attend some panels related to #digitalhumanities and #digitalarthistory. Attending conferences is a humbling reminder of how much I have yet to learn. But it was great to see old friends and connect with new ones!

Now that CAA 2019 is over, I need to turn my full energy towards this exhibition that I am curating set to open on April 13th. I’m not sure how I will do what needs to be done between now and then, but I’m excited to see the whole project come together.

Pace Prints: A Master Printer’s Perspective

Pace Prints: A Master Printer’s Perspective is currently on display at St. Olaf College’s Flaten Art Museum! The show opened on September 10th (so I am a bit late with the update), but it is open until November 8th. Still plenty of time to check out these amazing prints. Here is the official blurb:


Fine art publisher Pace Prints issues work by some of the world’s most celebrated contemporary artists. Lesser-known are the master printers, whose technical expertise allows these artists to achieve the precise effects desired in their prints and whose innovations push the boundaries of the medium. This exhibition explores the intertwined relationship between artist and master printer through a collection of more than 20 prints including etchings, lithographs, monoprints, silk screens, woodcuts, and new technologies that synthesize digital tools and traditional approaches. Contemporary artists such as Ghada Amer and Reza Farkondeh, Chuck Close, Tara Donovan, Sol Lewitt, Claes Oldenberg, Kiki Smith, and James Turrell have partnered with Pace, collaborating with master printers to solve thrilling technical puzzles and challenge the boundaries of contemporary printmaking. Curated by Bill Hall, Master Printer, Pace Prints; Justin Israels, Master Printer, Pace Prints; John Saurer, Associate Professor of Art, St. Olaf; Jane Becker Nelson, Director, Flaten Art Museum.


It was great to Rhexia, Paul Morrison (2011)be in the audience for the gallery talk by Justin Israels (Master Printer of Pace Prints) on September 25th, who spoke about the many works on display as “old friends.” Printmaking is collaborative by its very nature, and it was a refreshing perspective on works that sometimes never escape the aura, personality, or dominant narrative of the artist. It was fascinating hear about the challenges involved with finding the right sized pin to create Tara Donovan’s pin matrix relief prints or learning about the process needed to make Corban Walker’s hardground etchings. In all cases, these works would have never been possible without the synergy of the artist’s vision and the technical skill of the printer, whose identity often remains hidden from view.IMG_7215

There are a wide range of prints on display to showcase a variety of processes, but my two favorites were Rhexia by Paul Morrison (2011, linocut, printed by Justin Israels, Kathy Kuehn Bill Hall, Ann Aspinwall & Kyle Simon) and Faith by Jane Hammond (2001, iris print with relief, collage, wood veneer, silver foil, and hand-coloring printed by Ruth Lingen, Kathy Kuehn, Mae Shore, and Andre Ribuoli). The former because it toyed with the visual codes of older landscape prints writ large, playing with scale and style in one gigantic linocut. The latter because who cannot forget the image of a sinking Kamakura daibutsu, candles, and a ballerina on a retro television set. It reminded me of the strange imagery of a tourist poster with the pastel background punctuated by bold forms. Although none were featured at the Flaten Art Museum, Pace Prints has also worked with Japanese artists such as Okada Kenzo, Shibata Yasu, and Nara Yoshitomo.

The secret labor of the printer is nothing new, however! I have been working with nineteenth-century woodblock printed engravings, and I also find that the identity of the printer or engraver, if known, is always overshadowed by the author of the text. Even when the images found in these works become iconic, they are exclusively associated with the writer.