New gallery focuses on printmaking

Step into the Northern Prints Gallery and one of the first things to greet you this Christmas season will be a carved plate corresponding to one of Cecilia Leider's woodcut prints hanging on the wall.

Step into the Northern Prints Gallery and one of the first things to greet you this Christmas season will be a carved plate corresponding to one of Cecilia Leider's woodcut prints hanging on the wall.

For Leider, it's a way of conveying how the medium -- which is experiencing a renaissance and has always been her passion -- combines art and craft. Like other kinds of printmaking, every color in a print requires a plate, and each plate is applied to a piece of paper in succession, keyed so they line up together and eventually form an image.

In woodcut printmaking, one of the oldest if not the oldest version of the art form, making the plates means not only precise draftsmanship and a keen eye for color but also carving a block of wood with "exacting physical manipulations," Leider said.

"Prints kind of lie at the borderline between what's called a fine art and what's called a craft," she said. It's definitely fine art, but it applies elements of craft in distinct ways.

Leider said printmaking compares to both drawing and sculpture. But one of the distinct characteristics of the medium is seen most clearly in contrast with painting. While a painter can blend and shade colors almost at will, a printmaker is more limited -- a color is basically applied at a given point or it isn't.


Not that you'd know it looking at some of the effects possible.

There are the usual drawing techniques of suggesting a blend with lines, but working with transparent printer's inks also opens up other possibilities.

"You can expand the number of colors you actually have in the print by overprinting, but it's unpredictable," Leider said.

The artist will have some idea what to expect, but much like a potter firing a bowl, the final result is always something of a surprise. And that's why Leider says the actually printing is the most dynamic and exciting part of the process for her.

"All the prints are not exactly the same," she said.

Almost all printmakers get started making one-plate black prints, and for some, that color itself is addicting. "The black in printer's ink is the blackest black in all of art," Leider said.

But for Leider, that's not enough -- although the transition to color was gradual for her, she now tries to push the boundaries of the medium with each print she makes, often resulting in a striking realistic style. A typical print for her has eight colored inks, and some have more.

A new gallery


In addition to being one of the Northland's leading printmakers, Leider's efforts aid the medium in the area in two different ways: Along with Joel Cooper and Jonathan Hinkel, she's a founder of the Northern Printmaker's Alliance, and the Northern Prints Gallery is her own gallery.

The first meeting for the alliance brought in about six people. Now it's more than 25, including some familiar names, such as Betsy Bowen, Ann Jenkins, Jeff Kalstrom, Gordon Manary, Robb Quisling, Robert Repinski and Todd White.

Members of the alliance are involved with a variety of printing techniques, including relief printing, intaglio printing, lithography and screen printing, which uses stencils. Participating members certify their work, use specified quality materials, be responsible for the image itself and supervise printing and production.

The gallery is another thing. Located in a duplex owned by Leider dating back to 1891, the gallery is usually open by appointment only, although it has regular hours through Christmas. Leider said that's more common in fine galleries on the coasts.


"It's going to be awhile before people get used to that," she said, but she noted that it's not too rigid -- one doesn't need a specific time, just a general idea of when they will show up.

"They don't have to buy anything," she said. "They just have to be seriously interested in the art."

As for the gallery itself, it feels much like a home, with natural lighting, lots of wood and furniture, and Leider says that's intentional.


"It shows the prints in a house setting," she said. Leider says some people have already remarked that seeing the art that way helps them visualize how a piece might look in their own homes.

Although the gallery is not connected with the alliance in any official way, the two are closely intertwined. Leider consulted with some of the members before going forward and has already done shows featuring the alliance since the gallery opened in October. More will be forthcoming. Exhibits at the gallery run about two months.

But the focus of the gallery is prints -- you won't find paintings or drawings features -- and usually by local artists. "The subject matter of the prints is not confined to any style or subject," she said.

Once a year, she will also put on a show featuring strictly her own work, and that's what's on display now. An upcoming exhibit will focus on black-and-white work.

In the gallery, each print is backed by a statement of authenticity. Leider is also offering individual instruction in relief printmaking.

Another unusual characteristic of the gallery is that it features a show of unframed prints, upon request. The images take on an added vibrancy when viewed outside those confines, she said, and patrons rarely get to see them that way.

"The glass gets in the way," she said.

Kyle Eller is features editor for the Budgeteer News. Reach him at or 723-1207.


News to Use

The Northern Prints Gallery is located near the Whole Foods Co-op at 318 N. 14th Ave. E. Through Christmas, the gallery will be open from noon to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays. During other parts of the year, the gallery is open during exhibit openings and closings, for special events and by appointment Thursdays through Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. To make an appointment, call the gallery at 724-3089.

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