WaterFire Providence is pleased to present a conversation with printmakers Julia Samuels and Andrew Raftery. As part of our New Flame initiative, WaterFire Providence’s Pass the Torch series is a mix of gallery shows featuring emerging artists plus an artist talk wherein the emerging artist is paired with an established artist working in the same field from the NetWorks RI group of artists.
The first set of exhibitions plus artist talks in our Pass the Torch series features printmakers Julia Samuels and Andrew Raftery and their artist talk was moderated by Tripp Evans, a professor of Art History at Wheaton College. Julia’s work, a series of recent woodcut prints highlighting the relationship between a cities human inhabitants and the utility infrastructure that surrounds, was on exhibition as Landscapes in Relief at the Visitor Center Gallery at the WaterFire Arts Center between August 2019 and January 2020. The short video Andrew Raftery: Autobiography of a Garden by Richard Goulis was screened prior to the artist talk. Any viewers who are unfamiliar with Andrew’s work should watch this video prior to viewing the recording of the conversation presented here.
Samuels and Raftery’s disparate approaches to depicting everyday life generate a compelling existential conversation around the individual’s relationship with a modern, semi-urban living environment and brings attention to topics such as isolation, domesticity, and lineage.
Julia Samuels and Andrew Raftery’s works share obvious similarities: both are black and white, both depict architecture, and most significantly, both exhibit a non-fictional, documentarian attitude towards their own daily lives. Both Samuels and Raftery make work as an immediate and candid response to their environments and daily observations.
Yet, the two artists differ considerably in their approaches to this subject matter. Samuels prefers the sight of vacated city streets, while Raftery depicts mainly interiors and domestic spaces. Samuels often utilizes high contrast, dramatic compositions, while Raftery’s prints are always overflowing with rich, translucent grey tones which demonstrate volume and depth. Samuels seldom depict figures, while Raftery’s prints are rarely without them.
The prints by Julia Samuels and Andrew Raftery offer two distinct perspectives on the contemporary urban experience and prompt a dynamic conversation when in juxtaposition. These works of art highlight the underlying tension embedded in the banality of everyday life and centers the artists’ ordinary lives as a worthwhile topic for contemplation.
Julia Samuels is an artist primarily working within relief printmaking. Her work focuses on the tragedy and beauty of environmental damage. Julia was born in Portsmouth, NH and received her BFA in Printmaking from Pratt Institute in 2007. In Brooklyn she participated in building and managing The Gowanus Studio Space and also volunteered during the formative years of 596 Acres, an agency that helps neighbors gain access to vacant land in their communities. Julia received her MFA in Printmaking from Rhode Island School of Design in 2015 and has since founded Overpass Projects, now located in Pawtucket, RI. As master printer and director of Overpass Projects, Julia publishes and prints her own work as well as collaborative fine printmaking with other artists, bridging barriers between artistic disciplines and promoting cross-pollination between techniques.
“My most recent work has been depicting neighborhoods around Providence. I love how the maze of transmission lines acts as both a conduit for current activities and shows the legacy of growing through different types of technology. I want the viewer to feel a sense of interconnectedness- with the neighborhood, the city, and when we expand our view, an interconnectedness with all of America and the world. I want the viewer to consider our collective responsibility and personal implications as we think about the ever-looming threat of global warming.”
— Julia Samuel’s reflection on Landscape in Relief, the current exhibition in the gallery at the WaterFire Arts Center
Andrew Raftery’s roots were in East Providence, from where his first generation Irish father came. He grew up in Washington, D.C., made his first print at the age of eleven, and attained a BFA from Boston University and an MFA from the Yale School of Art. Raftery, a professor of printmaking at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he has taught since 1991, is renowned for his mastery of engraving. He has won numerous awards and fellowships and exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions at many major venues in the East. You can learn more about Andrew on his NetWorks RI profile.
The Pass the Torch Exhibition and Artist Talk series will continue throughout the year at the WaterFire Arts Center. Future featured artists will include emerging artists Peouneemoull Pech and Jordan Seaberry and Networks RI artist Mary Beth Meehan. Mary Beth’s work was recently featured in a New York Times cover story about the display of her photographs as part of an artist-in-residence program in the town of Newnan, Georgia. You can read more about this project in Mary Beth’s own words on Medium.
The Pass the Torch Series is an offshoot of the NetWorks Rhode Island project. NetWorks Rhode Island is a series of 130 video portraits of Rhode Island artist that was created by Dr. Joseph A. Chazan in collaboration with Bert Crenca from AS220 starting in 2008. The NetWorks RI portraits are produced by Richard Goulis (video) and Scott Lapham (stills). The full archive of the portraits and digital copies of all six Networks Rhode Island catalogs can be found on our website.
WaterFire Providence is grateful to Dr. Chazan for his continuing generosity and support for the arts in Rhode Island. Look for more Pass the Torch events coming soon the WaterFire Arts Center.
Laura Duclos and Em Wang contributed to this post. Special thanks to Jon Waugh for showing up to tape the artist talk on short notice.