Music for the Eyes: Matisse’s Artist Books

Posted on October 27th, 2016

Left: Kate engages museum goers in the art books of Henri Matisse. Right: USM Center for Book Arts director, Becky Goodale, expounds on artist books in a panel discussion at the Portland Museum that Kate helped organize.

Music for the Eyes: Matisse’s Artist Books

I was excited when Portland Museum of Art asked me to give a gallery walk/talk at their current exhibit (through Dec. 31, 2016): The Art Books of Henri Matisse. Rhythm, color, poetry – all music for the eyes – dance around the space. From the story of Pasiphae, mother of the Minotaur (mythological half-man half-bull) to poems of Charles d’Orléans and Stephane Mallarmé, to Matisse’s tour de force: Jazz, this show brought me back to my youth.

I studied poetry, painting and printmaking in Paris as a student. All the text in these artist books is in French, of course, so I translated. What a gift to me to realize the meaning of Matisse’s words, coupled with his exuberant circus-inspired images in Jazz. I always loved Matisse’s colorful cutouts. And have been inspired by his approach to pochoir printmaking and collage. Now he has spoken to me in his own handwritten words, reminding me that happiness comes from a ‘bonne journée de travail’ (a good day’s work), to pay attention to the process and the journey (vs. “success”) and, above all, to make art from love, not hate.

Young painters, painters misunderstood, or understood too late, bear no hate. Hate is an all-devouring parasite. One creates not in hate, but in love. Competition is necessary, but hate…love on the other hand sustains the artist.

HAPPINESS. Derive happiness in oneself from a good day’s work, from illuminating the fog that surrounds us.
Happy are those who sing with all their hearts, from the bottoms of their hearts. To find joy in the sky, the trees, the flowers. There are always flowers for those who want to see them.

…for most people: success= prison, and an artist should never be a prisoner. Prisoner? An artist should never be: prisoner of himself, prisoner of a style, prisoner of a reputation, prisoner of success, etc.

—Henri Matisse
translated by Sophie Hawkes

Ancient Roots: Making Art in Ireland

Posted on July 13th, 2016

A rainless (!) ten days on the remote Western coast of Ireland at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation inspired our group (7 of us from Peregrine Press, 1 from Ireland, 1 from Iceland) to respond to the ancient stone circles, burial mounds and dolmens. Here where the sea meets land crisscrossed by ancient walls and tilled fields my soul connected with my own maternal roots and the spiritual resolve of the Irish people. I learned non-toxic techniques of printmaking from Catherine Kernan and loved the time with friends making art together.

Last Chance! Peregrine Press at 25 Ends Soon.

Posted on June 22nd, 2016

Earth Matrix I

Last Chance! Peregrine Press at 25 Ends its 2 Month Run

“The Art of the Hand Pulled Print” has broken attendance records at the Portland Public Library. The variety and depth of the work of this amazing printmaking cooperative is worth a detour to the Library on Congress Street before it ends on June 25. I have been Co-President of Peregrine Press for the past 2 years, and still marvel at the talent and “working togetherness” that this group, the oldest of its kind, embodies. Bring your kids – there is a fun game they can play at the exhibit.

Focus: Printmaking opens at Greenhut

Posted on February 12th, 2016

It’s February in Maine and the groundhog may have gone back to his den, but printmakers climbed out from all over the state for this invitational exhibit at Greenhut Gallery in Portland. Techniques from etching to woodcut to paper lithography (naming just a few), makes for a dynamic show. It runs through the month, and includes a printmaking talk and demo on February 20.

Above: I am standing next to my collagraph/ monoprint, “Ocean Gyre.” Our oceans appear timelessly pristine, but below the surface and throughout the feeding columns, small particles of man-made plastic are wreaking havoc with this vast ecosystem.


Below: Jeff Woodbury joins me- he had a striking screenprint in the show. Jeff and I are co- Presidents of Peregrine Press, Maine’s oldest cooperative nonprofit press. The Press is planning a 25 anniversary show May— to June—2016. Stay tuned!

Photos by David Wade, whose portraits of Maine artists just came down from the UNE Photography exhibit.

“WE ARE ALL RELATED – science shows us the ways – May we be inspired to care for the earth in our day.”

Posted on December 26th, 2015

Rachel Carson left us a legacy of understanding about the interrelatedness of species on earth and the fragile web of life, under duress, since she first wrote “Silent Spring”. This article by Bob Keyes in the Maine Sunday Telegram (12/20/15) shows her influence on my life and my work. One thing I learned in making the sculpture over four years is the need for collaboration on a big project like this. Addressing the current crisis in global warming requires the same spirit of collaboration. My hope is that we will respond creatively and together make a difference. “Man is a part of nature”, said Carson, “and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”

You can read the full article here:

Art as Bridge to Science

Posted on November 15th, 2015

photo © Hartford Courant

“The stunningly beautiful way in which art and science intersect”

These are the words Dennis Bisgaard, Kingswood-Oxford’s Head of School used to describe the sculpture that now inhabits the entrance of their new Science building.

I chose the double helix form to emphasize life in it’s myriad forms. Each turn of the steel and paper form reveals new creatures and colors as it moves and the viewer moves around the space. I wanted to encourage students to think about the interconnections between species and to be curious about how our ecosystems work in the web of life.

Art as a bridge to science, science informing art.

Please see the article about the sculpture in the Hartford Courant here

Singers, Strings, Sculpture

Posted on October 3rd, 2015

Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, CT threw open the doors of their beautiful L.E.E.D. Certified Science building on Friday, September 25 for the opening and dedication of my hanging sculpture, All Life Interrelated. As students sang a cappella or played the Wyvern Waltz on strings written for the occasion, school leaders welcomed the crowd, among them three of my five children, my husband Tom, classmates and friends. It was a mild and magical evening, and as night fell, lights from the big starfish support illuminated my three double helices “Air”, “Earth”, and “Water”. The steel and paper sculpture is 15′ x 5′ x 5′ (100lbs) and incorporates images on both sides of creatures from these realms, and reflects my concern for the care of the natural world. My hope is that the piece will be a bridge between art and science, and generate lots of teaching opportunities at this rigorous private day school. Years ago as a student myself there, I had written about the discovery of DNA’s structure. For me, it felt like coming full circle after working on this piece for the last four years.

Open Studio Celebration

Posted on July 14th, 2015

My Open Studio to Celebrate All Life Interrelated

Maine artists, friends and families gathered at my studio on the 3rd floor of the Dana Warp Mill in Westbrook June 25 for a farewell look at the hanging sculpture I have been working on for the last four years. Inspired by the double helix as a symbol of the continuity of life, All Life Interrelated is a steel and paper sculpture (approximately 14′x 5′ overall), now safely installed in its permanent home in the new science building at Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Ct.

Many people who helped me with the project were there to celebrate: Nelson Bruns, who constructed one of the steel armatures and the starfish holder, and did the final hanging; Laura Savard, who helped with many aspects of the fabrication including the hand-cut matrices based on slime mold that are a motif throughout; Dawna Bemis, our prudent project manager and keeper of the timeline, and Sharmon Toner, my intern from USM who did all the UV varnishing.

Thanks to son Matt and friend Wendy for delicious nibbles from his restaurant, Gather ; and Vena’s Fizz House for delightfully composed natural mock-tails and cocktails. Among those attending were art friends from Peregrine Press and Kennebunk, daughters Eliza Chappell and Sarah Armentrout, with husband Nick, Gabrielle Melchionda from MadGabs and other neighbors in the building, Jan Piribeck and Becky Goodale from USM, Amy Woodhouse from South Freeport, Beth Stoddard, Peter and Pam Plumb, Scott Teas and Pamela Hawkes and Alice Spencer from Portland, Mary Jewel from California, Michael and Leona Bruns, and many others. Thank you all for coming and supporting me along the way!

Installed at Last

Posted on July 9th, 2015

Photos above from left to right: Starfish; Nelson on the Genie; Three Armatures

Installed at Last

Four years in the making, my hanging sculpture, All Life Interrelated, is now happily installed in its new home, the foyer of the Chase-Tallwood Math Science and Technology building at the Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, CT. It hangs from the tall ceiling down through a mezzanine floor to the entrance below. When I first saw this stunning new L.E.E.D. Certified building, I was impressed by the lightness of the space and the quiet lines, and was excited to design a sculpture that would relate to the big natural landscape and views of the sky while reflecting the biology of small life and the continuity implied by the DNA structure. I did a lot of research into the science of slime molds, foraminifera, and phytoplankton. I read avidly about the connection between the Red Knot bird (longest migrating bird in the world) and the horseshoe crab that lays the eggs which give the shore bird sustenance on its long flights. All these references to interdependence found their way into my printmaking and construction for this piece. I like the idea of bringing science and art together, and my work reflects my concern for humankind’s depredations on fragile ecosystems. I hope that the students in the school will see creatures in my work that engage them and become platforms for learning that ”what we do to the earth we do to ourselves.”

Photos above from left to right: Nelson and Kate take a breather on the mezzanine; Overview from above with ladders; Detail of “tuxedo” frog that Kate made on site for the “earth” crossbars.

In the Home Stretch

Posted on June 7th, 2015

All Life Interrelated

I am in the home stretch of making a public installation for the science building of Kingswood Oxford school in W. Hartford CT. It is a first for me, and I wanted to share it with friends in Maine before it goes to its permanent home. “All Life Interrelated” (taken from a Rachel Carson quote) is a hanging mobile sculpture, comprised of steel and paper double helices, 12′, 8′ and 6′. Two-sided monoprinted images form a paper “skin” that runs up each side of the “DNA” armatures. They reflect the interconnectedness of creatures of the sea, air and earth to their environments and to each other.

Concern for the environment has been a theme in my life and work. As Rachel Carson pointed out, “man’s endeavors to control nature by his powers to alter and destroy the world, inevitably evolve into a war against himself…”

Below are photos of the installation in process;
Top row from left to right: Crosspieces drying in studio. The runes are a code ( like DNA)- they spell out the Rachel Carson quote: “all the life of the planet is interrelated…each species has its own ties to others, and all are related to the earth; and test hanging in the science building in April. We had only 2 of the 3 armatures and used a 12′ rule as a placeholder for the long “sky/air” armature.

Bottom row: The earth armature with part of “sea” in foreground; and assembling the test armature on site.

© 2019 Kate Cheney Chappell - All Rights Reserved.