Currently living and working in Rosendale, Wayne Montecalvo is an interdisciplinary artist, immersed in video, audio, painting and sculpture media. He came out of Edison, New Jersey, by way of the School of Visual Art in New York City, and he’s now a SUNY-New Paltz teacher. In addition to showing in multiple art galleries and museums, Montecalvo has also lent his talent to local performance groups Redwing Blackbird Theater and Cave Dogs. Silkscreen printing on a variety of surfaces – glass, wood, Plexiglas, encaustic paint, shellac, pigment stick, powdered graphite, tea, coffee, rust, paprika powder, gold and silver leaf and enamel paint – the artist “obscures and manipulates the image and the physical surface to create one-of-a-kind pieces that tell a visual story.”
When asked about this process, Montecalvo explained, “Sometimes I’ll print directly on a surface or a substrate. I’ve been using this thin Japanese paper, and if you put wax on top of it, it acts as an adhesive – and also makes the paper transparent to the point where it disappears and the image remains. The pieces are piled or layered on top of each other. Certain colors are taken out of the image and put back in later. Certain distortions are manipulated after, and sometimes during, the printing process. I’m using encaustic without a pigment in it. Beeswax: It’s relatively clear, so that images read through from underneath. Each layer is encapsulated in wax.
“I want them to be unique images that cannot be repeated exactly. There are some components that might be the same [from one piece to the next], but it depends on how the thing was printed. For example, when you screenprint, you have a squeegee that pushes all the ink through to get the image. But what I’m doing is just parts of it – not flooding the screen completely with ink, letting those gaps happen – and I get a lot of vacant areas in the print. I don’t want to say it’s a mistake, but if you were printing some poster for someone, it’s not what they would want. I’m trying to use distortion – part-image, less information – and compiling it again.”
I ask if he ever ends up with something that just doesn’t work. “Actually, I’m kind of looking for failure, especially working on the very thin paper. I’ll do several prints, and I can choose which ones will work and which ones don’t. I have options. As far as the ones that are ‘a complete failure,’ they’re just images I’ve saved but haven’t used at that point. There are prints I just don’t like, but I wouldn’t call them complete failures. They might be used somewhere else in another piece. I can cut them apart and reassemble them.” Such unplanned-but-controlled results become cause for “discovery…chance occurrences to create a new way to see a familiar object.”
Montecalvo spent two months in Japan learning traditional papermaking techniques. The residency at the Awagami Paper Factory in Tokushima challenged the artist to alter his typical processes, because the facility there did not offer silkscreen printing. “So I used a digital printer and manipulated the images in Photoshop, and then took the paper that I made and distressed it. I used a lot of stains with coffee, bleach, India ink: experiments to try to change the image from just a digital print.” When asked how the environment might have influenced his artwork, he said, “I thought the whole culture was interesting, more than it influencing or not influencing my artwork. It wasn’t a priority to go and be influenced. I just went with an open mind to learn how to do the paper. And there were some limitations.”
Some of the large digital prints that Montecalvo produced in Japan are being shown at Time and Space Limited in Hudson this month. “Blotched Surface” is on exhibit in the TSL Gallery through June. The Gallery is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. An artist’s reception is being held this Sunday, May 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. Rob Caldwell will be on hand with some music, and refreshments will be available.
Blotched Surface: Wayne Montecalvo opening reception, Sunday, May 28, 6-8 p.m., free, Time & Space Ltd. Gallery, 434 Columbia Street, Hudson; (518) 822-8100, http://timeandspace.org/calendar/blotched-surface-the-work-of-wayne-montecalvo.