I was lucky enough to grow up on a farm in southern Oklahoma. Our house had one book to read, and that was the Bible. My father was illiterate and my mother had a fifth grade education. We were oblivious to any form of art and did not know the name or work of any artist. What we knew was working together with our neighboring farmers, sometimes borrowing a tractor, a hay bailer, or helping get the hay crop in the barn before a rainstorm. We were always ready to help out and they in return. Collaboration was essential to our livelihood. My mother gave me a paint by numbers watercolor kit. I was ten years old.
When I was 20, while walking across the campus of Oklahoma State University, I stopped a fellow student and ask if the university offered classes in art. Was it possible to study art to become an artist, I asked? The answer was yes. I enrolled in my first class and committed my life to study the arts.
I received my MFA from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis where I met Professor Zigmunds Priede. Zig, as I have always known him, was teaching intaglio, however he was excited about a new class on stone lithography he would be teaching the next semester. He had just returned from New York where he had worked as a master printer in lithography. He explained its basics to me, showed me a few lithographic stones, an old hand-cranked press, and said I should enroll in his class. My life was about to change.
Painting and drawing was my major, but printmaking became the release of all my creative energy. During that semester I drew on, and then printed, over two hundred stones, virtually living in the print studio. This burst of activity developed a technique of transferring pages from magazines to lithographic stones and printing them as my art. I used Robert Rauschenberg’s Dante Drawings (1958–60) where he transferred magazine images directly to sheets of paper as my inspiration. However in my case, I was transferring the images to the stone and then printing them. Zig took note of what I was doing and said maybe Rauschenberg would be interested in using this technique at Tatyana Grosman’s studio on Long Island where Zig had worked as a master printer. I had never heard of Tatyana Grosman but Zig educated me. He showed me copies of what he had printed while working there: Jasper Johns’s 0–9 (1960) portfolio and Barnett Newman’s 18 Cantos (1963) were just two of the classics. Tatyana (Tanya) Grosman named her printmaking studio Universal Limited Art Edition or ULAE. I would begin my art career there in 1969.
Tanya knew soon after my arrival at ULAE that my childhood experience of living and working on the farm combined with my art and printing education could offer her artists many new possibilities. She knew ULAE was where I belonged; that I was a collaborator meant to help artists achieve their goals in printmaking. I had found my art in collaboration.
50 years have now passed and I am very grateful to Zig and Tanya. To be director of Universal Limited Art Editions these past 37 years, and having worked with so many talented artists has been extremely gratifying. During this time, I have often wondered how artists feel about working in printmaking. Does it influence their creative thinking in their primary medium? Do they enjoy working with another person to make their images? Are they excited about the act of printmaking or is it just another source of their livelihood? I have asked several to express their opinions and hope you find their responses informative.