"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Printmaker Sarah Horowitz

By on July 29, 2019 in Arts with 0 Comments
Sarah Horowitz, seen in her Leavenworth studio, is smiling for several good reasons; one of them is a recent relaxation from deadlines.

By Susan Lagsdin

Scene #1: Across from Icicle Ridge, the artist plunks down rocks to secure the corners of an unwieldy three-foot by nine-foot banner of heavy blue mulberry-tree paper to the uneven ground. 

Straddling over it at times, she fills the whole frame, slashing and backfilling with a calligraphy pen her view of distant crevices, trees and rocky ledges.

Scene #2: Ensconced in a private studio just steps away from her home’s front porch, the artist bends over a single dark wax-covered copper plate the size of a playing card and for several hours draws needle-thin lines, gradually etching through the soft medium an image of allotropa virgata (candystick), a Cascade wildflower. 

The artist is Sarah Horowitz. The first artwork became the massive, showstopping, blue-black landscape drawing in her recent exhibit at the Graves Gallery at Wenatchee Valley College. 

The second could become part of a bound series of prints, often surrounding theme-related poetry or an essay (an “artist’s book”) that graces rare book collections; her resume lists 37 institutions as diverse as Harvard’s Houghton Library or the Missoula Museum of Art that purchase her work.

Sarah, 42, has been making art, hands and eyes attuned to the world, for much of her life. 

Pines in White, 2019, sumi ink on dyed Japanese paper, 54 by 29 1/2 inches.

She delved into printmaking, both etching and woodcut, for the first time at a 1998 Chautauqua workshop in upstate New York and soon switched her college major at Hampshire College from math to art. “I loved printmaking more than any other medium I’d tried — it made sense with how I think and work,” she said. 

In the next 14 years living in Portland, Oregon, she honed her art, attracting grants and residencies and finding interested buyers worldwide. Any side employment beyond that, usually the bane of the working artist, was in galleries or teaching printmaking and drawing at Portland State University. 

Keeping close ties with the Froelick Gallery, which represents her, and craftspeople vital to her artist book projects, five years ago Sarah made a big move from urban center to mountain town. She came to Leavenworth with her husband Nick Pope, who’s a mountain guide for Northwest Mountain School, and their baby daughter. 

“I always thought I’d be an artist,” Sarah said. “And the idea back then was that family was not compatible with that. It’s definitely challenging, but it’s nice not to be in this life all by oneself.” 

When she was first pregnant, she found an art book dealer to manage traveling and marketing tasks for her. Now, with career and family both attained, Sarah skillfully juggles time and attention as does any working mom of a six-year-old.

This past May, the family moved into a downtown Leavenworth house with a separate studio for her, where she can work for hours at a time on her art. 

Wildflowers, 2016, artist book with hand-colored etching, letterpress printing, and binding, 11.5 x 8 (closed).

She’s established the pattern of creating an artist book (those bound prints, which she acknowledges is a very particular niche art form) about every two years. She stages a solo show of prints and drawings every year and in between deadlines does occasional illustrations, local exhibits and commissions, like making the exquisitely bound certificates presented by Yale University to its annual literary award winners.

For the artist books, which are the most labor intensive of her projects, she creates the initial art — drawn from nature with reverence and scientific accuracy — and pulls the prints but also controls the quality of the finished piece. 

She insisted, “I want everything I make to embody the whole idea — the entire product should be elegantly simple.” 

Hence attention to special paper, the typesetting, formatting, binding and letterpress printing down to gold leaf design on the leather spine. The colophon, an acknowledgement page at the back of her books, indicates how carefully Sarah chooses and credits other craftspeople.

Sarah’s own Leavenworth studio is tiny but neat. Sheets of copper lean against the shelving for handmade papers, and there’s an area for messy work with inks, powders, chemicals, brine and wax, a long clean multiuse table with two stools and a 1969 press inherited from a Massachusetts mentor. Good light spills into the small room on one side, tools hang in size order on the other. 

She focuses 100 percent when she works on original drawing and etching, but she admits to a slight addiction to audio-book mysteries on her headphones for repetitive work like pulling multiple prints and sometimes hand painting, in watercolor, up to 50 of the same limited-edition image. 

This summer marks the end of a rigorous three-year stint of overlapping work. “I’m literally clearing the decks,” she said, grinning, indicating her super-tidy studio. “This was full of parts of projects. But now I don’t have to do anything with ink for maybe another six months.” 

She’s recently returned from a two-week Mellon-sponsored botanical art residency in Oak Springs, Virginia, and recently closed the Graves show.

Sarah will take a breather with some relaxing drawing, but she’s not going to rest for long. The art world is calling her, quite literally, and she’s already envisioning the next project. 

She said, “I have a list of artist books and prints I want to make that should keep me busy for the next 20 years.”

Learn more about Sarah’s imprint, Wiesedruck, and see her art prints at www.sarahhorowitzartist.com.

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