Printmaker finds beauty in matrix

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Sara Tabbert's wood panels on display Tuesday Nov. 26, 2013 at Kenai Peninsula College.

The walls of the Kenai Peninsula College Gary L. Freeburg Gallery are lined with the carved wood pieces by Sara Tabbert.


The yellow cedar relief carvings, titled “Black Spruce” 1 -17 are simple pieces that came out of Tabbert’s background as a woodcut printmaker.

Tabbert, who currently resides in Goldstream Valley, just north of Fairbanks, said she discovered her love for art while attending college in Iowa. She took a summer school drawing class and became intrigued.

“I kind of stumbled into it,” she said. “It was the most challenging and interesting thing I’d ever done.”

Printmaking was the second class she took and it inspired her. Tabbert said she makes prints generally from plywood blocks and Japanese paper. Yet in her printmaking she has often noticed that blocks themselves are works of art.

In her artist statement, she explains that she believes all artists who make prints have had the experience on occasion finding their blocks more compelling than their prints.

“The block is actually more beautiful,” she said. “The thing often considered the matrix…. is the finished piece.”

“I think of these pieces as my version of brush and ink drawings. We all use the tools we are most comfortable with, and for me those tools are wood and carving implements,” she wrote in her statement. “I’ve come to realize that my natural impulse in making an image is to take away material rather than adding it.”

For the cedar blocks, Tabbert coats the surface with India Ink, then uses small Japanese carving tools to expose the images of the black spruce. She then coats the work with light coats of wood finish.

She said while the prints on paper are great, the paper is fragile and must be matted and framed. The blocks have texture that the viewer can get close and see and feel.

“There is a definite tactile feeling to these,” she said.

Tabbert’s “Black Spruce” exhibit will be on display through Dec. 13 and she will travel from the Fairbanks area to attend the closing reception.

“It is nice to have the opportunity to exhibit,” she said.