by Ellen Rossow
With midterms underway, many students are feeling overwhelmed. But for printmaking senior Madeline Murnion, feeling busy is welcomed with open arms. On top of planning for graduation in December, Murnion has a solo exhibition at downtown Fargo gallery Make Room this month, and she is stoked about it.
“It’s all pretty surreal,” she said.
Murnion’s exhibition showcases nine large woodcuts in two installations. Some of the pieces come from a study Murnion did about the various lines one can achieve with woodcuts and carving. Her pieces are nature scenes and natural landscapes. The second type of woodcut featured looks like large, 3-by-4 foot skulls.
“The ‘skulls’ are actually, in a sense, portraits of my family members,” she said. “I carved huge woodcuts and they represent mental illness in my family.”
Murnion made the woodcuts large as a way of being loud about how important she thinks a discussion of mental illness is.
To represent the stigma around the issue, the “skulls” incorporate what many find disgusting — bugs.
“Mental illness is generally misunderstood by society, and stigma of mental illness manifests itself through the insects in these prints,” Murnion wrote in her bio on makeroomfargo.com. “They are large scale to show the prominence and impact of mental illness.”
According to Murnion, printmaking is a time-consuming process. For her, it’s even longer, due to the size of her pieces.
“It’s a pretty intense process,” she said. “The woodcuts on display took from weeks to months to print.”
Murnions pieces are called multi-reductive. The process of reduction printmaking is complex. Cuts are made into the flat surface of a wood block, and ink is rolled across the surface. Any area not cut away picks up the ink, but ink doesn’t enter the cut area. The ink is then transferred to paper via the wood, like a stamp. The process of cutting, inking and transferring is done multiple times until it is to the artist’s liking.
Something Murnion likes about printmaking is the variety of things one can do under the term “printmaking.”
“You can include painting too,” she said.
Murnion’s dream for much of her life was to be in fashion. After starting her college career in the Twin Cities, she found a shift in her career choice. After moving back to the F-M area and attending MSUM, she knew printmaking was her calling.
“Printmaking really appealed to me because of the different techniques and how cool the people were,” she said. “The printmaking students really took me in. They were like a community of artists that rely on eachother, depend on each other.”
After graduation, Murnion will focus on her business, Urban Beetle Press, a letterpress and screenprinting shop. The F-M area being her home, she is excited to expand her shop in town.
“I wanted to start my shop here,” she said. “I love the F-M community.”
Murnion met Make Room founder Chelsea Thorson on her wedding day. Thorson was the driver of Murnion and her husband’s pedal cab. While being driven around Downtown Fargo, Murnion and Thorson got to talking about their love of art. To Murnion, this unorthodox meeting and the opportunity that stemmed from it is characteristic of Fargo.
“I really hope young artists take ahold of that and break easily into the art world like I am trying to,” she said.
Murnion believes it is imperative that MSUM students and art lovers, in general, take advantage of events.
“It is so, so important that you go to events around your town, even if you don’t plan on staying there,” she said. “I have connections in the Cities, in Portland, in New York, just based on going to gallery openings in that city.”
Viewing other artists’ work is also important.
“Any work that you see by another person, even if it is drastically different from your work, will effect your own,” she said. “It is so important to be exposed to things in other artwork to further your own pieces. You don’t want to be caught in your own bubble.”
Murnion’s works will be showcased at Make Room in downtown Fargo for the remainder of October. More information about Murnion, Urban Beetle Press or Make Room can be found on Facebook. Visit makeroomfargo.com for upcoming events at the gallery.