‘Outlaw Printmaker’ brings colorful, playful prints to Pyramid Atlantic’s newest exhibition
By KRISSI HUMBARD —Pyramid Atlantic Art Center is — again — bringing a nationally known artist to Hyattsville.
Mississippi-based printmaker and professional Mountain Dew drinker Sean Starwars will exhibit over 200 of his famous/infamous woodblock prints in Pyramid’s gallery space. His distinctive style and prolific work have rendered him one of the top contemporary printmakers in the U.S. Starwars will be exhibiting brand new prints alongside some that date back 15 years. His energy-charged, caffeine-induced, aggressive approach to printmaking embraces bold colors, strong images, and a good bit of satire.
“I like to tell funny stories using funny pictures,” Starwars says, of his work. These pictures include hillbilly alligators, melting ice cream cones, traumatized NASCAR drivers, former child movie star chimpanzees, drunken hot dogs, literary legends, hungover clown robots, and monsters from Frankenberry to Frankenstein.
“I am psyched to see the gallery covered from head to toe in colorful, playful prints,” said Kate Taylor Davis, Pyramid Atlantic’s executive director. “The work is subversive, it’s nerdy, and even though Sean is known for his speed, his prints are extremely detailed. Plus I love exhibiting inexpensive work!” Davis said Starwars’ prices range from $50-150.
Starwars holds an MFA in Printmaking from Louisiana State University and a Graphic Design Certificate from Savannah College of Art and Design. “Somewhere along the way, I realized that I could accomplish my goals as an artist without enslaving myself to the meticulous obsessions of ‘traditional’ printmaking,” Starwars said, in a press release. “I don’t slow down to make perfect drawings or to finesse my color registration. I hammer out the carvings and blast out the prints, and move on to the next print, the next day.”
In addition to the exhibition, Starwars will be teaching an intensive woodcut workshop at Pyramid that starts “May the Fourth” and runs through May 6. Students of all experience levels will learn how to carve and print a four-color image from multiple wood blocks, and will learn tips and tricks for image preparation, tool selection and maintenance, ink mixing, as well as carving and printing techniques.
Starwars lives in Laurel, Miss., with his wife and five children where he operates his printshop, Woodcut Funhouse. In addition to making woodcuts for over 25 years, Sean has been an adjunct professor, a janitor, and a used car salesman. He is a proud member of the legendary Outlaw Printmakers, a loose-but-tight band of artists that use printmaking as a means to an expressive end. The work made by the artist members of OP, while diverse, shares a common spirit of independence from academic print aesthetics and practices. The artwork by OP draws inspiration from the great printmakers of the past as well as from skateboard art, album covers, comix, gig posters, and many other entities. Starwars’ work has appeared in numerous public and private collections as well as on book covers, album covers, magazines, television programs, films, and commercials.
Founded in 1981, Pyramid Atlantic Art Center is a non-profit contemporary art center specializing in printmaking, papermaking, and book arts. Its 13,000-square-foot facility, located in Hyattsville’s Gateway Arts District, features a papermaking studio, print shop, letterpress studio, bindery, and darkroom that are available to individual artists in a cooperative setting. Pyramid is also home to 18 private art studios and a gallery. Its programs include adult classes for all experience levels, residencies, and off-site demonstrations and classes for schools and other arts organizations.
“Southern Fried Woodcuts” opens Friday, April 20 with a reception from 6-9 p.m. at Pyramid Atlantic that will proudly serve Mountain Dew, at the artist’s request. The exhibition runs through June 2 with gallery hours of 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tuesday – Saturday and noon–5 p.m. Sunday.