Categorized | Arts

Heavy Metal: An ancient European art method revived

Posted on 31 December 2012


By Amy Patton

Currently on the walls at the Sara Nightingale art gallery in Water Mill, something texturally exciting is going on.

Copper, wind and black tar have come together to create dimensional prints by Shelter Island artist Kia Pedersen. The exhibit, dubbed “Change in the Wind,” reflects her background as a painter, printmaker and architect.

A self-described abstract impressionist, Pedersen has enlisted a method for her latest (as yet untitled) collection of works at the gallery — located at 688 Montauk Highway — known as “intaglio.” It’s an ancient printmaking process derived from the Italian “to carve.”

The method was first developed in fifteenth century Europe.

Intaglio, explained gallery owner Nightingale, makes use of copper or zinc plates which serve as a base into which images, of varying forms of materials and sometimes chemical reactions, are etched into the metal. Traditionally in the process, a series of inks are applied to the copper canvas. However, in this case, the artist chose tar as her material, adding to that a most unusual method of applying it; the wind. Inspired by her passion for sailing and racing yachts out of Coecles Harbor and the “oneness with nature,” she remarked.

“Wind and water speak to me: so I made the wind a focal point of my art,” said Pedersen.

“So in a real sense, the wind is also the author and the artist,” she said.  “That’s why you see the black tar patterns moving throughout the pieces in different directions. Each piece reflects the direction the wind was taking at that moment.”

Later in the intaglio creative process, a sheet of paper is typically placed on the metal plate and compressed with a heavy roller, evening out the surface of the work.

Also borrowed from nature in the artist’s current collection is sea salt, a material she literally harvests from the waters near her studio on Shelter Island, and then uses as a corrosive material that helps to etch images into the copper plates. The layering of textures, materials and color work together to create the final print that reflects the artist’s love of the sea, the raw beauty of Shelter Island and her devotion to these things. In one piece on display at Sara Nightingale, an image of nautical blueprints is visible, reflecting Pedersen’s architectural interest and training.

The artist, a 40ish, engaging blue-eyed blonde who holds a master’s degree in architecture from Yale and studied as a musician at Juilliard, also boasts an impressive family pedigree of design. Her father, William Pedersen, is a partner at  Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates whose New York City-based architectural firm designed China’s Shanghai Towers World Financial Center, a 101-story skyscraper that in 2007 made the structure mainland China’s tallest building and the second-highest in the world. One of her dad’s favorite projects though is designing homes on Shelter Island and teaming with his artist daughter to “warm them up,” she said, with her paintings and prints.

Pedersen’s love of copper as a medium and material muse for her work was featured over the summer at her studio on Shelter Island as part of an annual self-guided arts tour in August sponsored by the Artists of Shelter Island (artSI). Armed with maps of the various studios on the Island, visitors were able to view a collection of Pedersen’s copper-based paintings in her own personal workspace. One such image, titled “Blue Waters,” is a bit of a departure from the prints currently on view at the Nightingale gallery with various hues of blue oil paint that she etched into the copper plating.

One of the more intriguing places Pedersen’s art is displayed — and what she says is a personal favorite throughout her career — is at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, a venue where one of the artist’s copper plates was used as a design template to create 5,500 square feet of ‘non-repeat’ carpeting.

“The architects involved in the project were having a hard time trying to come up with ideas for the floor space,” she said. “They were trying to envision unique ideas for a theme.”

Chosen out of many of the applicants for the project was Pedersen.

“It was fun for me to look down on it from the upper floors when it was finally completed. It was a huge canvas!”

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One Response to “Heavy Metal: An ancient European art method revived”

  1. Kia, I work at there, and while we have many wonderful pieces of art at Michigan’s Ross school, your carpet is a favorite of mine. It is really beautiful–and I had no idea it was done with your heavy metal technique. Very cool. And thank you for making our space even more lovely.


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