At first I was haunted by a distinct feeling of confinement as I entered the just installed exhibition “(un)confined: The Artists of Shepherd & Maudsleigh Studio” at the Fort Point Arts Community (FPAC) Gallery at 300 Summer Street in the Fort Point District.
And then I realized that just going indoors and down the stairs to an interior courtyard opening onto a modestly sized gallery meant leaving the expansive skyline and sloshing green seas, the industrial era bridges and the brick and stone buildings all gilded with the spring sunshine of Boston’s waterfront.
Grumbling, I entered the artificial lighting, the four walls, of this promised revelation and realized how unfair had been my initial impression. It was an old acquaintance, Liz Shepherd, doing her time at the gallery desk whose art and person always enlightens and enlivens me.
Shepherd and her co-partner, Rebekah Lord Gardiner, oversee a very large space of 6,000 square feet in West Newton, Massachusetts, called Shepherd & Maudsleigh Studios where monthly members have access to their own files as well as locked cubbies.
And all this space and all this equipment along with the meet-ups you can’t avoid while working alongside other makers each involved with different facets of the arcana of making art is liberating. Engravers talk to silk-screeners who talk to those who swear by collage and soon comes progeny with a host of different genetic strains who talk further to each other: the elegants consorting with the rough and ready, mystery with the broad smiles of sunshine.
Then comes the pandemic and one needs, as thirst needs water, the additional liberation of a members’ exhibition thrown open to the public at this gallery generously lent by Fort Point Artists Community to their West Newton colleagues.
I dutifully jotted down all this information on my clipboard to enlighten you my future readers. But I wasn’t really informed until Shepherd stretched up both her arms to grasp the imaginary wheel of one of the four printing presses that Shepherd & Maudsleigh Studios boasts. She had to almost stand on her tip-toes to reach the outer circumference of said wheel whose rotary motion drives the downward motion of the press as each printmaker’s inspiration of form and color is driven home into the grade of paper that expressly suits it.
And then I got it. As much of a scribe as I am, give me a speaking image and I put down my clipboard. Shepherd called the wheel she was so acrobatically grasping a “captain’s wheel”; I was so taken by the drama of her pantomime that I felt the floor of a vessel moving under me, the motion of which moved me around the gallery feeling now very ‘(un)confined’ to enjoy the compression of artwork that lives in as equally as on its matrix of paper.
Is it the “indwelling” of this process of artistic expression, printmaking, a linked process of decisions in the mind of the artist, that impress themselves on the viewer kinetically as well as esthetically? Do we respond to the muscularity of the process with an intensity peculiar to its making?
Engraving and screen-printing were, historically, an inexpensive way to multiply copies of an “original” drawing. And that shows in the pricing of these attractive works: (un)confined by rarity to high prices, compelling in their expense of spirit.
As I followed my footsteps back to the South Station Red Line and home to Cambridge, I felt as though I’d been far away — not “confined” at all.
(“(un)confined: The Artists of Shepherd & Maudsleigh Studio,” featuring works by Liz Shepherd, Rebekah Lord Gardiner, Sandra Cardillo, Alison Darrow, Ellisa Freud, Catherine Garnett, Kitty Gormley, Gail Hansen, Sharon Hayes, Suzanne Moseley, Catherine Owens, Molly Paul, Andrew Plaut, Danielle Pratt, Rachel Silber, Dorothea Van Camp and Debbie Kurlansky Winer, continues through June 3 at Fort Point Arts Community Gallery, 300 Summer St., Boston, Massachusetts. The FPAC Gallery is open Friday from noon-6 and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information on Fort Point Arts, visit fortpointarts.org. For further details on Shepherd & Maudsleigh studios, check out shepherdmaudsleighstudio.com.)