Humor, absurdity often focus of Beach Museum of Art gift print artist
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
"Devotee" is among the prints by Jason Scuilla, the 2017 Friends of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art 2017 gift print artist, that will be featured in his upcoming exhibition at the museum. The print was created using an innovative contemporary printmaking method Scuilla developed. | Download this photo.
MANHATTAN — The 2017 Friends of the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art gift print artist's works are often inspired by his heritage and produced with a jolt of innovation.
Jason Scuilla, associate professor of art and head of the printmaking program in Kansas State University's art department, is the recipient of the university museum's annual honor, which has been given to outstanding contemporary artists associated with Kansas since 1934. The printmaker or photographer selected each year is commissioned to produce a limited-edition print for sale to the public, with proceeds supporting the Beach Museum of Art's activities.
Since the mid-1990s, the selection of the Beach Museum of Art's gift print artist also has included an exhibition of the artist's work. "Porta Magica: Jason Scuilla" will open March 14 and run through July 1 in the museum's Ruth Ann Wefald Gallery. Scuilla also will discuss his work in an Artist's Talk at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 6, at the museum. The exhibition and talk are both free and open to the public.
An American artist of Italian descent, Scuilla said he's drawn to his ancestors' country and travels there frequently to study and create prints. Monumental fragments of Italian sculpture inspire his most recent prints. He describes them as dramatic compositions rendered with a pictorial economy and a deadpan sense of humor, all to raise questions about humankind's relationship with mortality and the ancient past.
"Though much of my work tends to be black-and-white in medium, the content sits in that mysterious gray area that makes life and humanity so complex, magical and interesting," Scuilla said. "In my life and in my prints, I try to find that delicate balance between disciplined intensity, seriousness, absurdity and humor. If I find myself laughing while I'm working, that usually means the print is on its way."
To produce his detailed, hand-drawn prints, Scuilla uses an innovative nontoxic process called electrolytic etching that uses electricity and a saltwater solution rather than harmful chemicals to burn the negative image of a print on copper plates, which are used to transfer the ink to the paper.
In 2016, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Scuilla a $20,000 Art Works grant to support "Transforming Printmaking Through Chemical Innovation," a collaborative project to transfer safer, sustainable technology from the electronics and biotech industries into fine art printmaking. Scuilla is collaborating with the university's Stefan Bossmann, professor of chemistry, to lead a team of artists, scientists and students to research, develop and refine electrochemical etching processes and green biosolvents, empowering artists to create prints in a safer and more effective manner.
Scuilla's innovative printmaking technique has been recognized internationally in scientific and print communities, and he has lectured and demonstrated on the technique at universities, art centers, print shops and conferences around the world. In spring 2016, he was an international artist in residence at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica di Venezia, a fine art printmaking studio in Italy, where he showcased his printmaking technique.
A Kansas State University faculty member since 2006, Scuilla earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Fine Arts from Temple University's Tyler School of Art.
The Beach Museum of Art, on the southeast corner of campus at 14th Street and Anderson Avenue, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission and parking are free. The museum is closed Sunday and Monday. Find out more about the museum online at beach.k-state.edu/, or by calling 785-532-7718.