Darkness into Light: Umbra by Carmi Weingrod

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At Shift through April 25th

by Cynthia Hibbard

In exotic Cappadocia, a World-Heritage landscape of phantasmagoric rock formations, volcanic stone cave dwellings shaped like drip castles and architectural remnants from several great and ancient civilizations, Carmi Weingrod fell in love with a cement block wall.

But no ordinary stack of cinderblocks was this.

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Every day of her month-long artist’s residency last fall in the small, farming village of Ibrahimpasa in central Turkey, Weingrod found herself captivated by a humble but intriguing retaining wall on her walk from her converted cave apartment to her converted cave studio.

What fascinated Weingrod was actually a wall within the wall—a crude assemblage of blocks with irregular openings that had apparently been added as a later-day repair job to possibly centuries-old construction. The shadows cast from the blocks’ irregularly drilled openings, which range in shape from portholes to archways, became the inspiration for Weingrod’s current Shift show, Umbra.

Most people would think the wall is really ordinary,” Weingrod said.  “I fell in love with those very irregular shapes.”

“Most people would think the wall is really ordinary,” Weingrod said.  “I fell in love with those very irregular shapes.  Sometimes you would see greenery through them and sometimes just shadows.  It was the juxtaposition of shape and light that interested me.”

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Shapes and shadows have been the continuing focus of the prints, drawings and rubbings in Weingrod’s recent work.  In an impromptu Shift show, Cave Girl Printmaking, held last December upon her return from Turkey, she presented an array of mixed-media drawings of the shapes and shadows she found on long walks through Cappadocian valleys, utilizing vibrant, local color.

Umbra, the technical name for the darkest part of a cast shadow, builds on the theme of shapes and shadows but takes a sharp and more intimate turn into the stark contrasts of black and white, deeply grained wood prints on thin, Nepalese paper.  The prints convey both the mesmerizing sense of her wall’s patterned appeal and also Weingrod’s own intense mood last winter when, after a series of personal calamities, she felt compelled to work darkness out of her psyche.

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As well, she said she’d felt the urge to get back to spontaneous print-making with stencils and a battered but beloved pair of 18 x 24-inch birch-laminated plywood sheets, along with a few odd wood pieces collected from scrapyards.

Weingrod’s monoprints build up an overall hypnotic impression of darkness and light, unique shapes within shapes, both careful selection and intense repetition, happy accidents, echoes and ghosts.”

Mounted on hand-crafted steel rods and hung side-by-side, Weingrod’s monoprints build up an overall hypnotic impression of darkness and light, unique shapes within shapes, both careful selection and intense repetition, happy accidents, echoes and ghosts. The papers also waft gently a few inches from the wall so that they cast their own umbras.

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“I’m not a methodical artist, which really goes against my training as a printmaker and a technical writer,” Weingrod said, “but I think that my very conventional background has given me the confidence to break every rule, to be whacky and to try things.”

The irregularity of Weingrod’s subject matter was the ideal match for her process.  “I’m not into perfect,” she said.  I very much work in the moment and I use accidents as much as I can.  Right now I’m in an imprecision mode.”