Exhibition Preview

Handmade Paper and handmade books along with original prints will all be on display at the Higgins Art Gallery…………this is a preview of some of the artwork created for the exhibition EAST MEETS WEST which will be on view at the Higgins Art Gallery at Cape Cod Community. There will be and opening reception on Saturday, February 6, 5-7.

East meets West

Coming up in 2010

Higgins Art Gallery at Cape Cod Community College

Reception:  Saturday, February 6th 5-7 pm

Brown Bag Lunch:  Wednesday, February 3,  1-2pm

Artist Talk: Thursday, February 4, 6-7pm

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Brown Bag Lunch Presentation

Brown Bag Lunch Presentation by Sara David Ringler

October 21, 2009

Every day I was greeted by the ochre wall outside my studio at 41 Santa Reparata, in Florence, Italy.

Every day I was greeted by the ochre wall outside my studio at 41 Santa Reparata, in Florence, Italy.


Sabbatical  /  part 1 Florence, Italy

September 2008-December 2008

West Meets East  A Visual Journey / Traditions in Paper, Print and Book

It is my goal to use my sabbatical to engage in a variety of experiences in paper making, book arts and printmaking using Eastern and Western techniques and sensibilities. What I learn and experience will be integrated within the diverse variety of subjects I teach.

Over the span of this past year I took courses in three dimensional paper making, monotype construction, reduction woodcut, Japanese woodcut, photo etching, letterset printing, book arts, Japanese calligraphy and Japanese paper making. I participated in several group artists projects.  I attended the Global Implications Print Conference in Chicago 2009 and participated in their exchange portfolio “Mind the Gap”  In addition I was accepted into the Paper and Book Intensive at Oxbow, Michigan for a two week intensive in making books and handmade paper. I traveled to Florence, Italy as an Artist in Residence to the Santa Reparata International School of Art. I went to Shikoku, Japan to make paper with a master Japanese paper making.Today , I will just focus on my experiences living and working as an artist in Florence, Italy.

The first time I was in Italy I was twenty years old .I was the recipient of a travel scholarship given to an art student for the purpose of European travel and study.  This scholarship allowed me to travel in Europe for three months.  I went to seven countries, countless churches, museums and historic sites. It was a life changing experience for me which expanded my world and shaped my art.  At that time I wrote in my journal“Of all it is Italy! hopefully at the end of this talk and presentation you will see why I love Italy.

And now all these years later I was given the gift of time  having the ability to explore, to revisit and this time to make art.  I was connected to Santa Reparata International School of Art which had excellent facilities and faculty.  I had a studio with a printmaking press and I had access to  printers, vacuum press and a dark room. I bought a museum pass which gave me three months entrance into museum and historic buildings.  I found that I had to balance seeing art with making art.

Before I left for Italy I had a chance to learning some Italian, thanks to Lore DeBower’s encouragement and to Rozanna Preziosi patience I could communicate.

Small daily events became adventures; Getting lost and finding my way, obtaining the right phone service, learning to use my espresso pot, tackling the washing machine, or figuring out how to keep my laundry from landing in the courtyard.  I mastered the trains, buses, and how to negotiate walking in the narrow crowded streets.  I got to know my service Internet provider Christiano, on a first name basis because he had to come to the apartment four times the very first week I was there.

I found the contrasts of contemporary life and Renaissance Italy fascinating.  Florence was filled with a mixture of ordinary in the midst of these spectacular surroundings. Every morning I walked out the door of my apartment and I passed the Medici Chapel, or I would go past the Duomo to get groceries. I would go to my studio or school and I would pass by the 100 year old carts where the vendors sold leather and everything else you wanted. (I limited myself to one scarf a week). In the morning I could see the ritual of the vendors setting up and when I came home, the ritual of putting the carts away. Every night the street washing machine clanked by my windows.  Each hour the bells rang. There were contrasts of old and new everywhere. Weathered surfaces, massive wooden doors, peeling paint, stone walkways, all contrasted with young students, mobs of tourists and the well dressed and well heeled Italian women.

When you live in Florence you can feel its history. Certain spaces such as the Medici Chapel, the Cloisters of San Lorenzo, or the Brancacci Chapel speak to a sensitivity to man within a space. The forms and shapes which are based on squares and circles are balanced and serene.  To climb inside the dome and feel the curve of the double shell construction gives you a profound experience of the architecture.  Then to get to the top and view the city’s orange rooftops and surrounding mountains is a magnificent experience.

I was constantly inspired by the order and balance I saw around me in the grandeur of architecture and the weathered surfaces that spoke about the passage of time.  I was drawn to the shapes of the domes and arches on the buildings which created a sense of envelopment and stand as testimony to man’s great achievements.  I loved the simplicity, order and soft color palette of the frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel , and I responded to fragments of illuminations and textures of ancient manuscripts.  I was inspired by the color and shadows and the play of light on the old stone buildings or wooden doorways which led to hidden courtyards.  At times the Arno river was an exquisite mirror of the ochre buildings on its banks. These are the some of the visual inspirations that influenced my printmaking and shaped the direction of my art while I was there and will continue to inspire me.

When I was in my studio felt I could not work fast enough to keep up with my ideas. then I started to worry about how I was going to get my artwork home.  Now back home I will continue to develop and explore my ideas and to incorporate the concepts of Renaissance balance, proportion and harmony with my art and my classroom teaching.  I feel the enduring nature of my accomplishment; I have a lifetime of experience and inspiration which will continue to influence what my art becomes and how I can inspire my students. I am looking forward to my exhibition next January at the Higgins Art Gallery in which I will show work from the entire year of study. I appreciate all the support I was given by my colleagues, the committee that approved my sabbatical, the administration and the Board of Trustees at Cape Cod Community College.

Hanging out the Wash

I have taken photographs of wash hanging on the line, sometimes in the bright sunshine othertimes
the wash is hanging waiting for the sun. Always in Italy, hanging high outside of beautiful shuttered windows or against the backdrop of a pastel colored stone wall you can find someone’s laundry. The whites or darks might be together, other items such as sneakers might appear. There is order and beauty to the design these personal items have as there are placed hanging on the line.  Recently I put togehter this handmade book which includes some of my favorite photographs of hanging out the wash.Hanging out the Wash  It was donated to the Morgan Conservatory of papermaking and Book Arts.

Handmade paper, photographs on acetate 2009

The courtyard at San Lorenzo

This was a wonderful moment to capture a shadow.

This was a wonderful moment to capture a shadow.


This was truly a gift….one of those perfect moments.  The first gift of course was to have my daughter visit me in Florence.  the second gift was to live in an apartment directly overlooking  San Lorenzo Cathedral.  And the third gift was to be in the courtyard outside the Michelangelo Library and have the sun cast the shadow of my daughter on the stone wall. The photograph I took had strong contrast which became even more accentuated in the etching I created from it.  This particular image was shot at about 12 noon and I went back several times later in the week to find the sun.  I did get a few other images I like, but this is my favorite.

I loved the courtyard and the how the stairway Michelangelo designed leads up to the library.  It is a wonderful space of quiet, and yet directly outside is the bustle and congestion of the San Lorenzo market.  That is precisely what I love about Florence, it is the contrasts and the mystery behind the ancient walls and doorways.

The studio in Florence

A lot of natural light and white walls...........

A lot of natural light and white walls………..

I arrived in Florence and found my way to Santa Reparata International School of Art, after being welcomed graciously I was given a variety of keys which led me to the studio I would occupy for the next three months.  My guides for all of this were Rebecca Olsen, the director and Carolina who was the studio assistant in printmaking.  the studio was clean and large with a separate room for soaking paper.  The press was ancient, and had an aura about it.  We decided to move the press into the larger of the two spaces for easier access.  This was and excellent idea and also gave rise to the need for a larger table somewhat higher to eliminate bending over the plates and prints.  the studio was much larger than I had imagined from my discussions with Rebecca, the director.  It also had really large windows onto a courtyard which made it delightful in the fall, although as I sooned learned later that ashes from nearby chimneys could float into my ink.

This was my first time I could look around in this quiet empty space and imagine filling the walks with ideas and images.  I purposely came with very little in terms of art supplies so I would be open to respond to my surroundings.  I wanted the work I created to be a specific interaction with Firenze.  Having been to Firenze twice before, I had memories of the sites and feel of the city and this is what I wanted to create in my own work.  It was very important to me not to bring too much with me in terms of images that would be imposed on my experience.

Over the first weekend I created several pastel drawings to put up on the white empty walls.  There was some left over paper and I had some pastels with me so doing this made me feel much less alone in the space and added some much needed color to the white space.  It is an artist’s dream to have white empty walls, a pure space, uncluttered with thoughts and distractions in which to explore new creative possibilities.

It took me three full months of activity to fill most of the space.  It was extremely useful to be able to spread out and to let the progression of my work flow logically from visual image to the next sequence.  Because of the nature of monotype printmaking I worked in a series, where each image led to the next and so on.

On the first Monday after I had my new studio in Florence, Carolina took me to the two closest art supply stores, which became my haunts. I quickly found my favorite store and establish a friendly but limited relationship with the owner.  His command of English was much superior to my Italian and when we were both at a loss his daughter would assist.  I was in heaven with the choices of printmaking paper, book arts paper and general supplies at this little store and it was only a five minute walk from my studio. Once I learned when they were closed for lunch I was never in want of anything.  I fell in love with Migani  printmaking paper.

One of my greatest joys in learning about my new city, was how comfortable I became in knowing my way around.  I remember the day that I no longer carried a map with me. I even gloated silently as I passed tourists standing on street corners with their maps in hand trying to match the intersection with the maps they held.  Another breakthrough was to actually be able to direct and help someone find a particular street or building.

It is interesting how quickly one can get comfortable and form a routine for living and working.  I did a lot of exploring, there was not a part of the city I dared miss.  I felt incredible healthy from all of the walking I did, and for me this was a transition because I am a runner.  And yet I felt it was satisfying to walk, I think I kept up a very good pace.  I split  my time between my studio and the main studio were all the classes were taught.  The main building held several fully equipped studios for printmaking, painting and photography.

As and artist in residence I interacted with students, shared my work, did a  printmaking demonstration and created an exhibition of my work.  I had a wonderful experience working in the fully equipped brand new studio and then I had the complete privacy of my separate space.  The two studios were less that a block apart, so it was easy to go from one to the other.

I felt very focused and complete with the work I created. Concentrating on the textures and colors of old walls and the surfaces that created ancient stories to me.  The shapes of the arched doorways were beautiful and bold and held mysteries.  I knew I had to select some of the things that had most meaning to me and focus on that.  I began by sketching the doorways and windows of the buildings which inspired by.  There were archways everywhere I looked.  I created a variety domes, doorways and arches, some of which I then combined with etchings of my photographs.Duomo with an angel

Old and new merge in this etching and monotype.

Old and new merge in this etching and monotype.

Florence captivates you with history and art, it also seduces you with beauty of another kind, the world of fashion.  I was constantly struck by the juxtaposition of old and new.  I loved the way the antique merged with the modern.  I took many photographs of the elegant shop windows to use for subject matter in my prints.

Paper and Book Intensive

After making 400 sheets of Washi

After making 400 sheets of Washi

I just spent two jam packed weeks at the Paper and Book Intensive, at Oxbow, in Saugatuck, Michigan.  Seventy artists came together to make books, create origami, to write and to make paper.  The PBI was run smoothly and we enjoyed terrific instruction, great facilities, and creative healthy cuisine.  The participants shared what they accomplished and exchanged their ideas and techniques. I enjoyed the social aspects, of hiking, canoeing and sitting around the  fire-pit.  In the evening, it was great to be able to return to the studios for late night art making.   In the morning there was time to take a run along the Kalamazoo river.  The work I did while I was there will lead to further book and paper making.  The Japanese paper we made is part of  a total of 400 sheets my class made collectively under comprehensive  instruction by Paul Denhoed who came in from Japna to teach at PBI.  I am impressed and inspired by these past two weeks.  It was such a great experience to be with so many talented and motivated artists.  Looking forward to the next PBI.  ( I will be posting pictures and video of the PBI to share with you)