Woodcut printing is an ancient technology that remains a powerful means of artistic expression in both Western and Eastern traditions.
There are vivid examples of this art form in "Printmaking," an honors exhibition by Salem State senior Jessi Hardesty at the university's Winfisky Gallery from now until May 5.
The large-scale prints and drawings in Hardesty's show depict heads, faces and figures. Some are human, some beastly, and some are combinations of both.
Hardesty is an art and design major with a psychology minor. She received a grant from Salem State's Center for the Arts that allowed her to study at Evil Prints in St. Louis, Mo., where she worked with Tom Huck, one of the foremost large-scale woodcut artists working today.
Woodcuts are made by drawing a design or figure on a block of wood, then chiseling out the places that will not receive ink. The print is made by pressing the ink-covered wood onto paper. The gouged-out areas appear as white space.
Woodcuts were used in the ancient Far East for making textiles, and in China for printing words and images in the fifth century. Woodcut printing developed in Europe for making and illustrating books in the 15th century.
Hardesty's exhibit includes reduction prints, a refinement of the woodcut method that allows different colors to be used in several stages. In reduction printing, woodcuts are washed after the first printing, carved further to add to or remove part of an image, then printed again with a different color.
Because the wood is destroyed in the process of creation, these prints can only be made once.
A reception for the artist will be held April 27 at 6 p.m. The Winfisky Gallery, at 352 Lafayette St. in Salem, is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by appointment. Admission is free. For more information, call 978-542-7890 or visit www.salemstate.edu/arts.