(Ref: Part-3)

KATHRYN KAIN
Master Printer at Smith Andersen Editions and Teacher in Bay Area College Printmaking Programs
By Erin Goodwin-Guerrero, October 2007

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Kathryn Kain is an artist who began her career in photography and sculpture, at Arizona State. Her interest in printmaking began with classes at De Anza College under the direction of Sal Pecoraro. Studying for her BFA in Printmaking at San Jose State, she worked with Steve French, Ken Auvil and Geoff Bowman. Then, in the early 80’s, with an interest in lithography, she went to Hayward State to work with Kenji Nanao who studied lithography at Tamarind Institute of Lithography in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Misch Kohn, a legendary printmaker, known for his etchings and wood engravings. There she reunited with old friends from De Anza College — Mike Fletcher, Rick Dula and Steve Campbell, who would, like Kain herself, become integral parts of a rich printmaking network which began in the Bay Area and stretches beyond.

I first met Kathryn Kain when she entered the MFA program in printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1985. At SFAI she continued to develop her particular interest in the monotype, studying also with Gordon Kluge, Dick Graf, and Larry Thomas. Her work at that time was figurative, images derived from models and slides of herself and her sister. Eventually, working with the female image generated an interest in traditions of the goddess, feminist literature and myths. These references became prominent in her art.

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Kain examines the contemporary virgin/whore dichotomy in her 2006, screen printed fold-out book, the Silver Virgin Series


After graduate school, Kain bought a press on time and rented a studio. She went to work in the print atelier of Ernest de Soto on 11th and Folsom in 1989, working on litho projects with notable Latino artists like Tamayo and Gunther Gerzo. She also worked at the Pasqualle Ianetti Gallery, as a picture framer, where she met Catherine Clark who encouraged her and eventually represented her work in her new gallery. She began to employ a mix of collage, drawing, and printing in her work. The images began to drift away from mythic females and into botanical symbols of fertility such as the pomegranate, and the forbidden fruit. Her painterly style was maturing.

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Kain’s monotype with collage, Aromella , 2007

Later she worked briefly with Don Farnsworth at Magnolia Press, where she again ran into Rick Dula, the master printer there. At the same time, she occaisonally worked as a framer with Lucy Gaylord at Smith Andersen Gallery and Editions in Palo Alto. It was there, in 1991 that Smith Andersen Director, Paula Kirkeby, came into the shop and announced she needed a printer for a weekend project. One weekend turned into a sixteen-year long relationship. Kain works part-time as the master printer with guest artists, and also produces some of her own work in the shop. It is an arrangement that Kain loves.

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Blu Rose, White Cat, monotype and collage, 2007, by Kathryn Kain

At Smith Andersen, in 1993, Kathryn Kain had her first project working with the Latin American artist, Gustavo Rivera. They hit it off and worked together on many projects for more than ten years. He had a major influence on her life and career, and she feels the success of their collaborative relationship was the incentive for Rivera to produce so many prints during those years. “Paula totally supported it”, she recalls.

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Kathryn Kain and Gustavo Ramos Rivera at work in Smith Andersen Editions

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Gustavo’s Print comes off the press!

After many years in the printmaking business, and teaching in the printmaking departments of major colleges and universities around the Bay Area, Kathryn Kain has worked with many of the major players. She reflects on the intensity of the activity in printmaking in the Bay Area, the concentration of ateliers that make the Bay Area a printmaking hotspot, and the continued role of many of her old friends in these print shops.

“Both Mike Fletcher and Steve Campbell went on to graduate school at the Chicago Art Institute. Steve Campbell ended up working at Landfall Press,” says Kain. “David Salgado, another one of Kenji’s students, started Trillium Press in South Park in San Francisco. David is a technical genius!”

She continues, “Ernest de Soto previously had a couple of other litho studios, with other partners, besides the shop on Folsom. He did the most amazingly beautiful work, but many of the prominent Mexican artists he worked with are not so well known here: Alejandro Colunga, Maximino Javier, Rodolfo Morales. For all the great work he did, he is not really a businessman or self-promoter. I don’t know if he made any money at it. He tells wonderful stories. At eighty, he is still showing his work and lecturing about the prints he produced.

We recall Kathan Brown, who taught at the San Francisco Art Institute in the early 70’s, right before I began to teach there, and left to start Crown Point Press in the East Bay. Kain comments, “It’s probably the most prestigious print atelier in the Bay Area. She expanded to include her New York site a few years later. Now in San Francisco, Crown Point has become the Cadillac of the etching ateliers. She is a visionary of the printmaking world who has worked with many blue chip artists.”

“Don Farnsworth began Magnolia Press in Oakland, with David Kimball in the early 80’s, and made some special contributions to printmaking and paper itself. Rick Dula worked there for 15 years. Farnsworth ended up doing computerized tapestries. Kala is also in the East Bay. Kala is a huge collective, a model for community printmaking studios. It has exhibition spaces, a huge array of equipment and a major digital lab. Kala is teaching so many areas of printmaking, encouraging a blend of different media and processes. It is an unsurpassed community studio.”

“Another press in Oakland, Made in California directed by David Kelso, has produced beautiful etchings of Frank Lobdell, Enrique Chagoya, and Gustavo Ramos Rivera among others.”

“In San Francisco, there’s the Mission Cultural Center. Renee Castro founded that program and it continues to be a huge force in screen printing, with classes and an open studio for artists. The Chicano exhibition at the De Young had a lot of fantastic screenprints from the Mission Cultural Center in it.”

Kathryn Kain goes on to talk about the relationship of printmaking to artists’ books. “There is a lot of crossover from printmaking into book arts. Mary Austin and Kathleen Burch started The San Francisco Center for the Book in 1996, as a small non-profit modeled after similar centers in Minnesota and New York. They offer a lot of events, classes and exhibitions. It has had a big impact on artists who have become ‘book art masters’, like Susannah Hays. She went to school there, learned paper and conservation and everything about artists’ books and now she teaches it.”

She goes on, “Another place in San Francisco is Hillside Press. They focus is books and letterpress. They’ve also won awards for their environmentally conscious approach to printing”

Kain concludes, “Printmaking has continued to expand in the Bay area and is enjoying a renewed interest from artists and collectors alike. This has encouraged many new workshops, classes and presses throughout the Bay area and the US. What Fanny (Retsek) and Sandra (Simon) did with Magpie Studios is an example of the energy in the community around printmaking.” In contemplating the scale of such an undertaking — the establishment and management of a print atelier, and working as a master printer — Kathryn Kain is a realist. “Printing is so physical and we, as printers, give so generously to the artist with whom we collaborate! Teaching is perhaps less of a conflict for an artist. I am always trying to protect my part-time status as a printer in order to have my own creative time as an artist!”

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Kathryn Kain’s Wild White Roses, monotype and drawing, 2007

<www.tamarind.inm.edu> <www.landfallpress.com>
<www.angelfire.com/ab7/ernestf.desoto/> <www.smithandersen.com>
<www.crownpoint.com> <www.trilliumpress.com>
<www.magnoliaeditions.com> <www.sfcb.org>
<www.missionculturalcenter.org> <www.kala.org>

One Response to “LOOKING AT PRINTMAKING: PART IV”

This article about Kathryn Kain is a great in-depth discussion of the history of printmaking in the Bay Area.