Mirror Images

Observers Linocut by Lily S. May

Observers Linocut by Lily S. May

By the time I reached my mid 20s, I had become wary of courses in art.  And, so, I set out to teach myself, as much as was possible, how to make linocuts and woodcuts.  Outside of one or two prints I’d made in high school art classes, printmaking was a new venture for me.

When I began my studies in 1971, I turned to the many excellent printmaking books that were available.  I collected several of them and poured over the books, learning techniques and being inspired by the prints in them.

Linocut by Lily S. May

Woman & Tree Linocut by Lily S. May

Gradually, through practice, I became more adept at using the tools and materials and eventually focused on making linocuts.  I figured if linoleum was good enough for Picasso, it was good enough for me.

The two parts of the relief printmaking process (so named because you carve an image in relief in wood, linoleum or other materials) that I enjoyed the most were carving the linoleum and being surprised when I’d first see the printed mirror image of what I’d carved.  And, in writing this just now, I’ve had one of those “aha” moments when something seemingly obvious, but previously unseen, hits you.  That is, the title of my linocut-made card deck—Mirrors of the Heart—is an apt title for a work produced using mirror images.

Mirrors of the Heart

Title Card from Mirrors of the Heart Card Deck by Lily S. May

Although I no longer make prints—after over 20 years, the repetitive carving movements hurt too much—I still love seeing linocuts, woodcuts and wood engravings.  There’s a feeling to all three prints that is hard for me to convey in words, except to say they have great energy and expressive power for me.

Only now do I piece together the importance of an exhibit of Russian woodcuts I saw as a child.  These were mostly black and white forceful images that I found beautiful and that transported me to places I loved.  Among the works were some of snow—I believe in woods or on fences and perhaps houses.  It was out of this exhibit that my love of the relief print grew.  And I see that those haunting prints from the land of my ancestors were, in part, responsible for my becoming a printmaker years later.

Abstract Woodcut

An abstract woodcut made in the 1970s by Lily S. May.



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