I met Berkeley printmaker Elizabeth Addison at one of her open studios almost a decade ago. I was impressed by her use of photographic and drawn images in her monoprints, and I asked how she does it. Soon I was taking her beginner's workshop, and I have been making prints as her student ever since. She now shares a studio with Kathleen King and two other artists. Addison and King, with twelve other women artists, are featured in a show opening March 12 at San Francisco's Off-Market Gallery.
Addison's work involves the use of great depth and complexity masquerading as something simple. Her powerful images, gleaned in years past from 1950's era advertisements aimed at homemakers, sum up the visual details in an emotional package, sometimes jolting, often subtle but still moving. I see Addison as an expressionist who is gradually making the transition from the pictorial Teutonic version of that movement to the abstract all-American variety of the mid-20th century. Some might see an influence of the Pop Art movement (Addison was once an art director for an ad agency), but I see that as a misreading of her work.
If Brownmiller wrote the book, Addison has revisited the subject in visual terms, using a palette of intense warm colors and incorporating imprints of everyday objects, ink-rolled textile swatches, and (in one print) birth-control pill containers. The layers and veils of detail created by such micro-images are not apparent at first sight because the whole compositing appears unified, but a leisurely return to the print (the original, not reproductions) is rewarded by the discovery of the subtle and sometimes humorous details.
Brownmiller, in her book, devoted 32 pages to the feminine body and 42 pages to its skin. In Addison's more recent work, as shown at the Off-Market Gallery, hands, knees, and other icons of a woman's anatomic destiny replace the hard-edged, full-body themes of her earlier work, exemplified by Full Circle, one of my favorites, in which a cheerful schoolgirl clad in a party dress with flaring skirt (above) dominates an abstract background which includes the aforementioned imprints of birth control pillboxes. (Full Circle will not be in the March, 2005 show, but can be viewed by appointment at the artist's studio.) Addison's print Take My Hands (below), which will be at the Off-Market Gallery, is characteristic of her more recent work.
Like the layers of meaning hidden in Addison's prints, the title itself of Full Circle conveys layers of meaning about femininity, an idea hijacked a long time ago by power-tripping men, which women have reclaimed on their own terms.—JDL
Copyright ©2004-2005 Jonathan David Leavitt