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Lucy Turner: Destroying & Rebuilding on Scales Large & Small

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When Irish artist Lucy Turner applied for our Art-In-Education Workspace Residency, she knew she wanted to explore ways of translating prints into three-dimensional forms but she wasn’t sure where it was going to go. She arrived five weeks ago with a pattern book for creating folded paper structures and a tireless commitment to following her evolving ideas wherever they’re leading her. Then her walks with Zoe, one of our studio dogs, began.

“Zoe-walking became a part of my daily routine, and everything came together and it’s all changed!” Lucy says. “There are enough ideas here now to keep me going for a year, easily. Things just fall into place, don’t they?”

As a printer who also works sculpturally, Lucy combines several processes and recurring motifs to create visually and conceptually layered pieces that often reference “the vulnerability of places and the vulnerability of communities.” Caves, stones, paths, trees, beaver dams—all are easily found in the organic lines of her etchings and in the rough shapes of her collage. Smatterings of colorful felt-tip marks give the impression of changing leaves. Her folded paper structures resemble boulders or logs reimagined geometrically.

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Enveloped in autumnal Hudson Valley, Lucy is deriving her current imagery from observations on her Zoe walks. As she’s learned more about Rosendale’s history and current Save the Lakes and Williams Lake Project conversation, her structure-making project has become a meditation on the anxieties of overdevelopment in small communities. Wrapping up her final week, Lucy is researching Catskill region folk songs, many of which she says act as community records, narrating “damage to people, damage to landscapes, damage to cultures.”

“Back in the day, there must have been people in this region who were concerned about the cement industry moving in and making scares in the landscape,” she says. “These folk songs are about the same worries people are having now, just in a different era.”

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And as her concepts evolve, the incorporation of the folk song is becoming increasingly important to the project. She’s transcribing lyrics to create a new print layer, which she’ll add on top of existing imagery. “I quite like the idea that the words, like the images, are layered. Bits have been removed, you can only pick out certain elements, and some things are just a blur,” she says of her test prints. “The words are just so telling about how things are here at this moment.”

Lucy has long worked with ideas about environments and populations. Recently, she placed intaglio plates into rivers and the ocean and let the natural environment—salt, sediment, rocks, animals, and litterdictate the markmaking. The pitted, scraped plates and their resulting prints act as a record of a specific time and place. And in her “nine to five” art education work in Northern Ireland, Lucy strives to support the voices of marginal communities, often facilitating the construction of large scale, site specific sculptures.

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The desire to translate such sculptures into more intimate forms brought Lucy to WSW. Her loggy, rocky structures are made by first printing strange irregular geometric patterns. As shapes that are splayed flat and unrecognizable on paper, they only hint at the potential for three dimensionality. Lucy folds them, unfolds them, refolds them, turns them inside out. Now, she’s most interested in the way the forms look when they’re left partially open, their rib-like fold lines exposed. As she adds her layers of folk song text, she plans to continue to put stress on the structures to observe how they change with handling.

“I’m not precious about the work that I’ve done here and I’m quite happy to destroy and rebuild, destroy and rebuild, Lucy explains. “At the end of it these could well be trash. We’ll see what happens, won’t we?”

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For Lucy, the constant production of workin whatever shape and form, for whatever reasonis key to her process. A peek into the etching studio confirms she is always sketching, always thinking, always making, everyday with new insights and new ideas. During her workspace residency, she’s experimenting with not only the structure building, but also with pushing the limitations of salt etching and learning chine colle to construct the prints that become her paper sculptures. She jokes that she’s jettisoning half her clothing to make room in her suitcase for all the new work.

“I think if you’re an artist you don’t really have any choice—you have to work,” says Lucy. “There’s rarely a day that goes by that I’m not thinking about something.”

Lucy Turner is a Bangor, Ireland-based artist who holds an MFA from the UK’s University of Ulster and has exhibited her work in Ireland, the UK, and the US. She is a member of Bangor’s Seacourt Print Workshop and has worked on several commissioned community projects with children in clashing neighborhoods, inmates, and hospital patients. She is our etching instructor for our fall Art-In-Education program and urges her students to “Go outside! Get inspired by what you’re seeing!”

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