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Presscraft Papers Visit

August 5, 2011

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Yesterday, I took my daughters and nephew to see the studio of Gwen Frostic (1905-2001). Like many in Justseeds, my summer has been jam-packed with exciting and busy activities. I spent two weeks working with young Indigenous artists in San Francisco. Afterward, Estrella Torrez and I co-taught an undergraduate seminar traveling across New Mexico and Colorado on ‘Native and Chicano perspectives in the US Southwest.’ Now that I am back in Michigan, I am trying to spend time with my kids, as well as finish five forthcoming book chapters and prepare for fall classes. This, while planning a bunch of solo shows and getting ready for Slovenia. Gulp…

To relax, I am spending the few weeks on an inland lake in Northern Michigan. For the uninformed, Michiganders generally refer to lakes other than the Great Lakes as inland lakes. Of course, the Great Lakes are usually referred to by name: Michigan, Superior, Huron, etc. Although without internet access, the first few days have been quite productive, as I have finished revisions on two chapters. The first address notions of Indigenous solidarity in the work of Carlos Cortéz (see this amazing exhibition which included the work of Colin, Nicolas, Favianna, and me, among others). The other looks at Anishinaabeg and Métis storytelling as forms of mshkiki or medicine. This morning, I began expanding an essay for a forthcoming book by Sarah Kanouse and Nicolas Brown called Re-collecting Blackhawk. Keep your eyes our for all three.

In the Great Lakes, Frostic’s blockprints of the natural environment are ubiquitous with being Up North (as we say around here). Alongside the books by Dirk Gringhuis, I grew up surrounded by Frostic’s regionalisms. She was born in Sandusky, just around the bend from the small town in Michigan’s Thumb where I was primarily raised. As an adult, she established a Wildlife Preserve along the Betsie River just outside Beulah. Somehow, Frostic found a niche market and upon her death, endowed Western Michigan University (my alma mater) with $13 million to build a new fine arts center.

Today, her studio still produces her prints using a dozen Heidelberg presses. Her nephew, Bill Frostic, has been the shop’s printer for over forty years. While at the studio, I had a wonderful conversation with Molly Frostic, Bill’s wife. Sadly, little is written about Frostic’s art, with two biographical books on her life.

Although I am generally drawn to overtly political or avant-garde artmaking practices, Frostic’s work speaks to an era in Michigan when the economy was bustling and it’s citizenry was committed to the state’s ecology. Not only does her work visually illustrate my chilhood in Michigan’s woods, she also follows in the vein of someone like Carlos Cortéz Koyokuikatl, who never numbered his prints. Like Cortéz, Frostic’s prints are still printed even after her passing into the spirit world.

After spending the afternoon in Presscraft Papers, as Frostic’s studio is known, I am thinking about many amazing books, articles, and exhibitions that need to created on Frostic’s works. I hope that I can find time some time in the near future to do something…

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3 comments on “Presscraft Papers Visit”

We were there some time in the late 70’s. It was wonderful then and am looking forward to returning soon, with out small children.

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