Students debut "Press of Death" prints outside Wightman Hall


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Professor Johanna Paas, left, helps Illinois senior Amy DiNovo, right, to apply a sheet before it is rolled by the "Press of Death" during the final for their printmaking class on April 30 outside of the North Art Studio.

The smell of ink and gasoline fill the air by the North Campus Art Studio as students in Johanna Paas’ Advanced Printmaking class bustled about with their rollers and slabs of wood. 

As tradition, the printing event, "Press of Death," enabled art students to work with steamrollers. 

Paas said the title reflects the fact that the prints, which are large pieces of wood which the students have carved designs into, have to be “pressed” by a steamroller in order for the design to transfer onto the necessary fabrics. Because the school does not own a steamroller, the class has to make do with a large motorized roller, typically used to press a baseball diamond.

The process as a whole, Paas said, is relatively simple but time consuming.

“The process is a relief process, so students have taken some (medium-density fiberboard) wood, carved it mostly with hand tools, and taken away some of the wood,” Paas said. “They take ink, with a roller, they apply the ink to the surface of the board, and the ink only goes onto the top of the surface of the image.”

The closest equivalent to what the students have created is “basically a really large stamp,” she said.

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Students in the printmaking class work on creating their prints with the "Press of Death" on April 30 outside of the North Art Studio. Students worked for weeks carving out pieces of wood into designs to put on pieces of fabric.

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Alma senior Peter Stack, left, helps Illinois senior Amy DiNovo, right, to prepare ink for application during the "Press of Death" final for their printmaking class on April 30 outside of the North Art Studio.

From images of dogs to flowers to self-portraits, students took to carving out images that fit the themes to which they were assigned.

For senior Donald Rice, he was assigned the topic of ‘Reality vs. Fiction’.

“I draw figures, but usually they’re all disoriented and their faces are all weird and not correctly proportioned,” Rice said. “I thought it would be a smart idea or a cool idea to just do one of my normal figures that I do, because I almost never do them because they’re not (anatomically) correct.”

Rice said the entire carving process took him nearly nine hours to complete.

“A lot of people here would consider that a flaw – that I can’t draw a correctly proportioned figure – but to me, it’s just how I draw people,” he said. “A lot of times we (as people) get way too caught up in having our prints having to be a specific topic or has to be politically charged, I just wanted to make a print that could be ambiguously anything.”

Other students, like Troy junior, Kayla Rothenberg, took about 18 hours to complete her print – a stand up carving of her dog Remington.

“One of our prompts was fact or fiction and it didn’t necessarily have to be fact versus fiction – it could be one or either or both – and one of the major realities in my life has been my dogs that I’ve picked up recently,” Rothenberg said. “I’ve adopted both of them and they’ve kind of become my whole world, which I guess is my reality.”

The finished sheets, pressed with the students prints, will be available for viewing down by Wightman Hall.

Paas said the event breeds comradery between the students as they all must work together in order for their final pressed prints to take form.

“(The students) get to make artwork which is usually larger than anything they’ve ever made before, which is really exciting,” Paas said. “(The press) is just a really nice and fun collaborative event for (the students) to have, especially at the end of the semester where they’ve really built these relationships up amongst their fellow students.”

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Troy senior Jordyn Hermani, Editor-in-Chief of Central Michigan Life, is a double major ...

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