“Signs + Gestures,” an exhibition in the Projective Eye Gallery in The Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte Center City, showcases two collaborative printmaking projects organized, curated and produced by master printmaker Stefanie Dykes. On view through June 18, the show brings together works from “Signs of the Times,” created in 2009, and “Token Gestures,” created in 2013. While the prints from these two bodies of work differ significantly from each other visually, in both cases they address social issues, calling out adverse components of contemporary culture.
Dykes is an artist, instructor and facilitator based in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 2003, she co-founded Saltgrass Printmakers, a non-profit printmaking studio and gallery providing educational programs, access to professional-grade printmaking facilities, and collaborative opportunities between artists and the public. She has curated print exhibitions with the Hong Kong Open Print Studio and has exhibited at IMPACT (International Multi-disciplinary Printmaking, Artists, Concepts and Techniques) conferences in Dundee, Scotland; Bristol, England; Barcelona, Spain; and Hangzhou, China. Signs of the Times and Token Gestures were both exhibited at IMPACT conferences.
Dykes was in her final year of graduate school at the University of Utah when she sent out a global call to other printmaking graduate students and asked them to create designs in the shapes of traffic signs, reflecting on issues such as military force, technology, and industry pollution.
“How will we navigate the increasingly complex, interrelated political, economic or social conditions of our global future? What are current trends that should be paid attention to?” she asked.
Dykes received participants’ digital files and produced the prints for display at that year’s IMPACT conference. Signs of the Times includes works like Dykes’ own “Color-coded Threat Level,” which superimposes characters from “The Wizard of Oz” over threat indicators in rainbow stripes, or Amy Fleming’s “Our Lady of the Salvage Yard,” where computer monitors and other detritus appear in the bowels of a skeleton’s torso.
Four years later, Dykes issues another prompt to printmaking graduate students and faculty from around the world: Design a token based on a contemporary issue (financial, environmental, social, or political) and designate what that token’s redeemable value would be. Like a “wooden nickel,” these “Token Gestures” reflect empty promises.
Dykes produced the portfolio of relief prints for the IMPACT 8 conference in Scotland. Each print is 24 inches in diameter. Some reflect the theme generally, like Travis Janssen’s “Empty Words, A Token of Appreciation, Good for Nothing.” Others tackle specific crises, like Nicole Pietrantoni’s “Good for one magically renewed landscape.”
Director of Galleries Adam Justice learned of Dykes and her work through Erik Waterkotte, associate professor of art and print media area coordinator in the Department of Art & Art History. Waterkotte had planned to host the exhibition in Rowe Side Gallery on campus, but Justice invited the work into the uptown venue.
“As I saw the work, learned more about the collaborative process behind it and met with Stefanie, I discovered the whole project was certainly worthy of a larger, more formal, exhibition. I think Stefanie does some important work as a printmaker and a community project manager. Also, we rarely have exhibitions solely devoted to printmaking, so this was an opportunity in that respect as well.”
The Projective Eye Gallery is open weekdays for in person visitation Monday and Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Click here for more information and to access a virtual gallery of the show.