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Wigwam + Tree

   Associated images:

Tom Nakashima

American, Born 1941

Wigwam + Tree 1994
Master printer - Kevin Garber
Collagraph from two sintra plates, newsprint
Somerset Satin
72"h x 53"w
Ed. 10
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By 1994, the Washington University Collaborative Printmaking Workshop program had become so ambitious that the staff could not handle all of the work that was required by the artists coming to visit the print shop.(1) Maryanne Ellison Simmons, who had graduated from Washington University in 1992 with a Master of Fine Arts in printmaking, was called in to help when Tom Nakashima and Frida Baranek were in residence. Simmons was not asked to work on the more conventional prints, but rather her presence was requested when an artist was responding to Marcus or Hall’s push to work beyond their tested successes in printmaking. Simmons’ experience in printmaking as a graduate student at the University had already given her the opportunity to work with professional artists-in-residence, and she was undeterred by the scope of the experimental work that was being produced by the shop.

While Tom Nakashima was well known as a printmaker and painter by the time he arrived in St. Louis, he had never worked on a scale as big as he did with master printer Kevin Garber in January 1994. Among the prints he produced were Wigwam + Tree and The Wait, both images that related to work he had done previously in his career. The Wait, depicting a fish inside a structure that resembled early Renaissance churches such as those found in Giotto’s paintings, addressed issues of the convergence of Western (the Giottoesque building) and Eastern cultures (the fish) in Nakashima’s own past.(2) Wigwam + Tree consisted of the skeletal structure of a native-American wigwam, open to the elements with a tree growing through its roof. The open building can signify either a nurturing place that cultivates and supports growth, or it could also be a prison through which life must break in order to grow. Both of Nakashima’s prints were collagraphs (the influence of Marcus) with hand-applied strips of newspaper and etching. Gold leaf and red acrylic paint were also applied by hand to The Wait. Wigwam + Tree was an enormous print measuring 72 inches high by 53 inches wide. Nakashima, who had never made a collagraph or printed that large previously, was clearly motivated to do so by the atmosphere at the shop in St. Louis. The shop was succeeding in persuading its visiting artists to expand their horizons and work in a manner that they had never before attempted. Even Kevin Garber, who considered himself a traditionalist specializing in stone lithography, went beyond his preferred medium to help produce exemplary works of art.

Marilyn Kushner
Curator and Chair of the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
Brooklyn Museum of Art
1 Island Press was originally known as the Washington University Collaborative Printmaking Workshop until the name was changed in 1996. Because of the labor-intensive aspects of the prints that were being produced, the print shop eventually decided to invite only two or three artists per year. This policy was particularly necessary in the late 1990s.
2 Nakashima’s mother was a Canadian of German-Irish decent and his father was of Japanese ancestry.