It’s a given that an artist’s solo show will reveal to public view some previously hidden connections and influences in her creative life. In the case of Deborah Maris Lader, accomplished artist and printmaker, musician and member of the well-known folk trio Sons of the Never Wrong, founder/director of the Chicago Printmakers Collaborative, those expectations are met and exceeded by her exhibit Welcome to My Planet at Firecat Projects, on view from September 22 through October 14.
Lader considers herself primarily a printmaker (she earned an MFA in printmaking from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1987 and recently received the 2016 Mid America Print Council Outstanding Printmaker Award). But she is, in fact, much more than that, and each facet of her diverse resume informs and amplifies the others. Stan Klein of Firecat Projects actively encouraged Lader to show her work in all its diversity, so in Welcome to my Planet, her figurative etchings, collages, paintings, hand-painted narrative maps and three-dimensional objects will be on display and in dialog. Lader says “I usually show my paintings separately from my prints…it makes me a little nervous because even though I do all of these things simultaneously, I don’t usually get the opportunity to [show them together.]”
Lader’s artistic practice can be hard to describe, as it depends on a free associational dialectic of image and narrative that coalesces during her process into a finished composition. Lader maintains that she often doesn’t realize these connections until after she has created an artwork. “I don’t always know why I’m doing things… so I’m working [on a piece] and suddenly [when I’m finished] I think, ‘Oh my God, that’s why I’m doing this!’“ But what her work lacks in everyday linear logic it more than makes up for in poetic resonance. Lader seems to be mining a rich vein of sub-conscious visual gold, which she intuitively combines into a non-specific narrative that leaves plenty of room for interpretation. In scale and tone, her work slightly resembles the work of Eleanor Spiess Ferris, but is more varied in format and relates specifically to people and events in her own life.
Her etching The Heron and the Fish is exemplative of her intuitive interweaving of printmaking, performance and her personal connections. The heron is a recurring image in her work, and after speaking in only a general way to her son Evan Silver about a theater project called The Heron and the Fish that he was working on in Bali, she created a visual scenario based on the subject. She realized only later how closely it was related to the Asian fable. The image ended up on the poster for the show, even though it hadn’t been created for that specific purpose. Lader says of her interaction with her son, “Sometimes we unknowingly collaborate because we are on the same wave length.”
In contrast to the veiled content of The Heron and the Fish, Lader gets more specific in her group of three 12” x 12” hand painted etchings humorously called “Too Much Stuff: The Ongoing Movie in My Head.” These small map-like compositions actively illustrate events in her life, and form meaning-laden visual pictographs.
The artist is particularly excited to show the beginnings of a new body of work in Welcome to My Planet. Using the technique of etching, she engraves images on glass objects–vintage spectacles, glass fragments and the like– then tints them with ink to make them visible. These small-scale glass artworks are carefully displayed, using metal and wood supports; each is one-of-a-kind. She says, “I started working on the glass etchings and really the idea so intrigued me because I work on them like I work on etchings, but they’re not meant to be multiples… they break easily, they’re ethereal things.” She has completed one glass-etched object, a 2” x 2” lens, that points the way to future work. The tiny etching of a heron is not inked, but instead the light shines through it and the shadow of the bird appears on the wall behind.
Welcome to My Planet provides a rich overview of work by this multi-talented artist, almost a kind of mini-retrospective. The wide array of approaches, subject matter and media represented in Deborah Maris Lader’s etchings, collages, paintings and three-dimensional objects shows a busy creator at work, and points the way to her future path. To read more about Deborah Maris Lader, go here. To find out more about programming and future exhibits at Firecat Projects go here