Making an Impression | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City Weekly

Making an Impression 

Visual Art: Bill Hosterman brings his innovative printmaking techniques to a local workshop.

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Salt Lake City galleries and studios have been fortunate enough to host exhibitions and residencies in the past. But how often do we encounter a practitioner who has helped develop a whole new process of creating art?

The “drypoint lithography” technique developed by Bill Hosterman not only will be on display beginning this week but also will be taught to a select number of students at Saltgrass Printmakers. Hosterman found himself at a crossroads in 1990, reaching a decision to return to school while hiking the Appalachian Trail in his pivotal mid-20s. He had long been an artist, but his studies at Penn State turned him in the direction of printmaking. He learned a variety of techniques and became skilled enough to garner a Fulbright Fellowship, which he used to study at the Artists’ Press in South Africa in 1995-96.

It was in Johannesburg that he learned and helped develop the drypoint lithography technique. This hybrid combines lithography—in which an image is drawn on limestone—and intaglio, a method of printmaking using metal plates. Since then, he has taught the technique in Germany in 2005, and in Athens, Ohio, last year.

“Drypoint allows a very linear quality,” Hosterman says. “It has a quickness and spontaneity that is very satisfying.” The process is also similar to drawing in that it can be developed in stages, unlike most lithographs that are literally set in stone. The image can be reworked after reproductions are made from it.

The genesis of Hosterman’s visit can be traced back to 2004, at a printmaking conference in New Jersey where he met Saltgrass proprietors Sandy Brunvand and Stephanie Dyches. “We really hit it off,” he recalls, “and they were excited about inviting me to come teach.”

“What Bill brings is a fascinating technique that is new to many printmakers,” says Brunvand. “Bill is also an exceptional teacher, who has taught this method around the world.”

Hosterman’s aims for the workshop are broad: “Students should not only be able to use the technique but also teach it to others.” He believes that, while the basic technique isn’t difficult, the nuances possible with it aren’t immediately accessible. Like any artistic technique, he claims, “It takes a while to build confidence.”

As far as his own work, he says, “I am interested in creating a visual language through drawing, as well as the mark-making of printing processes, that speaks to people through the nonverbal language of the body.” We carry nature around in our bodies, Hosterman believes, and this is communicated by everything from the organic quality of his lines down to the natural materials used in the printmaking process itself, from lithographic stones to woodcut blocks.

He also finds that the repetitive element of printmaking—stemming from the medium’s historical ties to illustration—also lends to it a kind of narrative that can draw on anything from comic books to Greek mythology to create an intensely personal iconography. “One can develop a visual history,” he says, “and create an entire environment in flat space.” These works utilize all the texture and depth of printmaking to effect the classical, shadowy figures of a Rembrandt, as well as surreal visages that leap off the surface.

After the workshop here, Hosterman plans to take a sabbatical from teaching at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., during fall semester, to embark on his most ambitious project yet: a series of larger works running the entire gamut of printmaking techniques, to be exhibited at the end of fall in New York City and Long Island. “I hope to develop an even stronger sense of narrative in these pieces,” he explains. Even if the marks his printmaking creates aren’t indelible, they are creating an impact that’s hard to ignore.

BILL HOSTERMAN Saltgrass Printmakers, 2126 S. 1000 East. Through Sept. 15. Workshop Aug. 13-15. 467-1080

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