Dedicated to covering the visual arts community in Connecticut.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Erector Square: Alexis Brown & Jennifer Van Elswyck

City-Wide Open Studios
50 Orange St., New Haven, (203) 772-2709
Erector Square: Alexis Brown & Jennifer Van Elswyck
Oct. 15, 2006.

Jennifer Van Elswyck has a thing for dirty records. No, not the kind that carry "Explicit Language" parental warnings. She uses phonograph records as a printmaking medium.

"I pick albums based on the line structure of the songs," she told me when I stopped by the room she was sharing with Alexis Brown. I asked her if she listened to the records before using them for printing. "Uh-uh. I pick the dirtiest records at Salvation Army with no jackets."

Her prints of both 12-inch LPs and 7-inch 45s were up on the wall. The circular grooves that held the music were more visible in some than in others. Some of the prints were obviously taken from broken records. She prints intaglio style, the way one would an etching. She inks up the record and then wipes the surface so the ink is only in the grooves.

When I made an offhand comment about vinyl records being a disappearing format, Van Elswyck disagreed, noting correctly that there is still a lot of music being released on vinyl. "A lot of music collectors find vinyl the cleanest listening," she said. Probably without the ink, though.

Alexis Brown's prints and drawings, mostly of animals, were push-pinned to another wall. She said she has a "natural history museum affinity." She plops herself down, either with a prepped printing plate or drawing implements, and sketches from the stuffed animals. ("Usually the security guards don't mind," she told me.)

She pointed to a drawing of a fox on the wall to explain the process.

"With a drawing, I get three-quarters of the information. I have the measurements of the fox down," she said. "When drawing taxidermy, you're essentially drawing sculpture so it's sometimes hard to capture gesture." She refers to anatomy books and other resources to imbue her images with life.

I expressed admiration for a large artist's proof on the wall, an etching of a peccary.

"It's a havolina at the Peabody Museum," said Brown. She uses the South American term "havolina" over the North American term "peccary" to avoid embarrassing confusion.

"I made the mistake of walking up to the director of the Peabody Museum and saying I have a life-size etching of your peccary," Brown told me. "He looked at me funny."


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