Wendy Small: Graphic Mindfulness

July 15th, 2015
Having known artist Wendy Small for many years, I have come to know her unique ability to understand others. On occasion, she has recounted how as a young artist she decided to go to nursing school to ensure she could support herself. When in nurse’s training, she opted to work in the “psych” hospital, choosing the complexity of the mind over the sight of blood. This kind of intersection in an artist’s life is always compelling to me. The courage of choice and the insight to creatively position oneself for living often informs, complements the practice of art making.

Lately, Wendy has been drawing heads with her fingertips on her iPhone. When she began sharing them on Instagram, I felt an immediate response. Quickly drawn, the combination of the iconic head in profile and graphic play of lines results in images familiar, yet new. The results impactful, producing some kind of relatable, abstract state of mind. Hitting a nerve, so completely hers, I wanted to get her into the print studio. Opposites as far as technology goes, I knew the same images made on the backlit, digital screen would lend themselves beautifully to the illuminating quality hand-worked ink printed on paper.

When she arrived, Wendy showed me the current head-shaped images she was working on. Their striking line quality reminded me of the Picasso technique we used for the Devoe St. relief print in which a white inked plate was printed on top of black, pushing the foreground back to pull the lines of the image forward. In Wendy’s case, I realized she could apply the same principal by drawing directly onto a white-inked plate, creating lines by removing the ink with a Q-tip. As the images were pulled off the press and tacked on the wall, the iconic images of the head wove back and forth between ancient, modern, and contemporary. The images were abstract yet universal, imparting personality and mood on the viewer. They revealed Wendy’s unique capability for human understanding, mapping out internalized emotion and graphic mindfulness.

@ Russell Janis Project Space, July 15th - August 7th. See installation images here.

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