Draw, etch, print, repeat

Megan Moore’s meticulous prints part of Self-taught and Not show at Avenue 9 Gallery

Chico State student Megan Moore spends hundreds of hours putting together her intricate prints.

Chico State student Megan Moore spends hundreds of hours putting together her intricate prints.

Photo By matt siracusa

Avenue 9 Gallery
189 E. Ninth Ave., 879-1821, www.avenue9gallery.com

Avenue 9 Gallery

180 E. Ninth Ave.
Chico, CA 95926

(530) 879-1821

After etching a design with acid onto a blank copper plate, Megan Moore smears “bone-black” ink over the plate and prints.

“It’s not a brownish-black, or a greenish-black,” said Moore of the ink she uses in the creation of her intriguing etching-collages that made their exhibition debut in December 2009 at the grand-opening show of Chico State’s MFA Graduate Studios. “It’s black.

“Printmakers really geek out on what color black they’re using,” continued the soft-spoken 28-year-old printmaker/collagist and Chico State MFA student. “I just got back from a conference in Philadelphia, and I literally heard printmakers discussing and arguing over which black they use and which black is best.”

Suffice it to say that Moore seems to have chosen just the right black for her work.

Possessing an offbeat delicacy, and an intricacy and monochromaticism akin to scrimshaw work, Moore’s meticulously drawn, printed and assembled collages of such things as flowers and mandalas are endlessly fascinating. One can get up super-close and study the tiny, carefully etched, microbe-like pictures that comprise—in carefully laid layers—her 70-by-38-inch “Bubble Up Cell Up,” for instance. Or one can stand back and appreciate the view of what looks from a distance like a lovely, subdued, pen-and-ink drawing of a floral arrangement.

One can do all of this looking, and more, at Moore’s Avenue 9 Gallery show, titled Self-taught and Not, which opens April 30. For this show, she will exhibit her work alongside pieces by suitably monochromatic and equally meticulous metal-artist Doug Rathbun (the “self-taught” in the title of the show), whose impressive recycled-metal fish chandelier and rocket lamp wowed viewers at south-downtown gallery The Artistry’s recent Spare Parts opening reception.

“Bubble Up Cell Up” (detail)

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“It takes about 130 to 140 hours to print, cut and assemble one 70-by-38-inch piece,” Moore said of the painstaking creative process she goes through. “I mean, we’re talking weeks. I etch into the copper plates—some of the references I pull from are from biology: microbes, cells. I combine them with my own patterns, drawings and doodles. And then I print over and over and over. I print on a really thin Japanese paper. … I print, print and print.”

Moore then cuts out the countless multiple-printed images—some “as big as the top of an eraser,” some a little larger—and carefully arranges them, layer upon layer, onto a large paper “canvas.” She then covers the entire creation with a layer of melted beeswax, in the case of her larger pieces (her smaller, 25-inch-square, mandala pieces are unwaxed, but no less beautiful), which gives the final product a delicate translucence suggestive of Japanese paper lanterns.

“Thin paper and the oils from the beeswax—that’s the magic combination,” said Moore.


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The subtlety of Moore’s work is breathtaking. One can peer through the translucent waxed-paper layers in a particular section of one of her large pieces and marvel at the way the different inked patterns on each little layer—lines, dots, swirls—interplay.

“I never really have a specific way I’m going to assemble a piece,” offered Moore. “I have a pretty abstract idea to start with. For ‘Bubble Up Cell Up,’ I started with the cone image [in the background].”

Then she just goes with the flow of ideas as they come to her while she works.

“And that’s really the fun part,” said Moore. “It’s very free. It’s very intuitive.”

And all that time-consuming cutting and printing and arranging all of those minute pieces of paper? It’s not grueling?

“No. No!” Moore insisted. “It’s what I’m here to do—make art. I mean, where else can I cut out things and play with paper? … I really like the lengthy process of cutting out so many tiny pieces of paper.”