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Eight great printmakers at Main Street Arts 

The thoroughly enjoyable exhibit at Clifton Springs' Main Street Arts gallery features the work of eight of our region's most talented printmakers. It's a fairly straightforward show, offering the chance to get better acquainted with the variety of techniques utilized by this small group, and the diversity of aesthetics that can be achieved with different print media.

Buffalo's Kathleen Sherin creates energetic, abstract carborundum and collagraph monoprint prints that depict various physical and emotional forces at work. Her "Storm" prints are each composed of three stacked, dark vignettes: the top can be read as lines of crackling light in a thunderhead, with storm clouds and absolutely torrential rain beneath. The gestural knots in her "Burst" series are equally kinetic, with lines slightly escaping the tidy blue squares of the print.

Canandaigua-based artist Barbara McPhail also depicts elemental forces in her monotype and collage work. She often pushes her vibrant scenes into the disturbing territories of environmental doom. In "Neighborhood Fires," the hilly landscape is dotted with fracking sites that are exploding with flames and choked with tonal smoke; a house in the middle ground is also engulfed. Garments swaying on a clothesline cast human-shaped shadows, underscoring the sense of disaster.

The reduction block prints of Rochester artist Carol Acquilano follow the rolling landscapes of the Southern Tier and capture the vibrating hues of Linwood gardens at dusk. Acquilano excels at freezing breathtaking moments of color phenomena. When late-day light rests hotly on living trees, she lays acidic pinks and plums against the subdued, icy winter landscapes. Bark is never brown, but filled with prismatic potential. And she places a subtle, abstract cast on otherwise identifiable scenes — layer upon layer of carved textures in her print "Back Yard Maple" pause the flow of my eyes along the elegant lines of trunks and branches.

Rochester native Paolo Marino's enigmatic woodcut prints center on the human figure, and his use of light and shadow inject a somewhat sinister tone to the scenes. The title of "Playing with Masks" alludes to the action of an infant, who is watched over by two nude, hairless adults under a darkening sky. Who will this child choose to be?

Marino makes great decisions in breaking up the contours of solid bodies into strange shapes with areas of deep shadow that border bright planes. In a divergence from his typical work, the screenprint "Dorm Room Blind" captures light seeping through the out-of-focus horizontals, with four sharp black squares inexplicably layered over the image.

Ithaca's Gregory Page sources flora from his extensive gardens and from distant green houses for his black and white lithographs, which depict fronds and leaves arranged into wet-looking layers and patterns, and bring to mind fossils of foliage. The columns of leaves in laid stem-to-tip in "Burning Bush" look like a curtain of strung vegetation, concealing a mystery even as light permeates from the other side.

Minna Resnick, also from Ithaca, combines lithography and gum printing with colored pencils and copper or gold foil. Her large-scale work layers figures and faces, floral motifs, and linear drawings gathered from a variety of sources and eras. In her statement, Resnick says that by remixing the narratives to create new associations and meaning, she means to "encourage information displacement and disorientation" as a reflection of today's information overload.

Rochester artist Heather Swenson creates highly unique silkscreen prints that often combine imagery of landscapes and her own simple constructions. This show includes some of her larger prints, a few smaller print and collage works, as well as a tiny installation of five small constructions.

Called "Night Camping," these works are made of silkscreened paper and thin wooden dowels, and read like elevated forts under starry sky canopies. Each has its own sweet detail: a mountainous terrain backdrop, a simple tent, or a perky little pennant flag.

Rochester-based artist (and City Newspaper writer) Ron Netsky creates complex landscapes through a unique method of collagraphic printmaking. For his cardigraph prints, Netsky cuts into sheets of cardboard, peeling back layers of fiber to create textures and shapes, then inks and prints from that plate.

The resulting sepia and umber glimpses into deep woods sometimes center on a monolith, or direct the viewer's eyes to moody skies seen through the scratchy canopy of bare trees. They are peaceful scapes in their stillness, but they can also ever-so-vaguely edge the viewer into unease, as if you are standing in an unspoken forbidden space.

In his statement, Netsky says he is drawn to "the interplay between organization and chaos found in nature," and this tension is evidenced by the dominant shapes of trees and stones amid the wild tangle of textures that fill his images. And because he usually depicts shadier environs, I was blown away by the bright openness of his "Chimney Bluffs" print. He's perfectly captured the sharp, otherworldly peaks and ridges of the strange, eroded terrain, set against a washed-out blue sky.

Editor's note: Ron Netsky is a freelance writer for this newspaper. He did not participate in the initiation or execution of this article.

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