Virginia Billeaud Anderson
Ever since she began making monoprints, Orna Feinstein has been disencumbering the art from its traditional meaning through the use of three-dimensionality. To build up texture with layers of fabric or collaged paper represents a mild assault on tradition. To print on plexi and assemble it into free standing sculpture, on the other hand, is a radical deviation. One could correctly say it expands printing into a fresh hell, to borrow from Dottie Parker. Given her current solo exhibition in the West Lobby of Williams Tower, the site specific installation opening next week at Box 13, and an upcoming one person show at Artspace in Raleigh, North Carolina, let’s shine the light on Orna Feinstein.
Following over a decade of showing art across the United States and in Europe, Feinstein exhibited in the 2011 World Plate and Print Exhibition in Busan, Korea. There she presented Arboriform #2, the printed plexiglass wall sculpture shown below. You can see similar plexi wall installations in the Magnified Realities exhibition at Houston’s Williams Tower through July 27.
Orna Feinstein, Arboriform #2, 2011, Plexiglass monoprint wall installation, 29” x 25” x 10”
Opening on July 14 in Box 13’s downstairs Front Box is Feinstein’s site specific Multi-librium, a large floor installation made of recycled art invitations. Its floral designs and petal shapes give Multi-librium a distinctly organic flavor.
Orna Feinstein, Multi-librium, 2008-2012, Reconfigured art invitations, room size installation
When I first encountered Feinstein’s art in 2001 at the Museum of Printing History, the Art League Houston and the Anya Tish Gallery, I was unaware of its circular designs’ source of inspiration. Not until seeing the Branched & Rooted series in about 2004 did I realize the spirals were based on circular geometrics of tree trunks and branches and trunk ring patterns.
Orna Feinstein, Branched & Rooted #149, 2004, Monoprint, 44” x 30”
That nature and botanical science are sources is unsurprising. A chemistry background (she studied at Hebrew University in Jerusalem) accounts for this. Scientific studies directed Feinstein’s vision to the organic basis of roots, branches, tree trunk rings, and also human cells. Note the scientific inflections in her Box 13 exhibition artist statement, “the installation will explore and illustrate the concept of equilibrium in which all biological systems co-exist, survive and function. This concept operates both on a cellular and exterior level.” Her scientific leanings are also evident in series titles such as Cellular Diffusion and Quantum Dynamics.
Feinstein refers to the prints in Quantum Dynamics as “three dimensional monoprints” because of their textural three dimensional qualities. To arrive at that she modifies her plates to print in relief, and also combines printed layers. The image below is from the Quantum Dynamics series exhibited in a 2010 solo exhibition at Anya Tish Gallery.
Orna Feinstein, Quantum Dynamics #14, 2010, Monoprint, 36”x 28”
Here is another “three dimensional monoprint” from the Tree Dynamics series.
Orna Feinstein, Tree Dynamics #1, 2012, Monoprint, 15”x 15”
The artist knew early on from studying print art at the Glassell School and attending workshops and printing demonstrations around the world, most recently in Venice, that she was drawn to three dimensional sculptural prints because of the challenge of constructing relief plates and templates and assembling printed parts. So it wasn’t too unexpected when she decided to formally study sculpture, and completed a BFA at the University of Houston in 2008. See just how sculptural print art can be in Trunk in a Box from a 2011 group exhibition at Anya Tish Gallery.
Orna Feinstein, Trunk in a Box, 2011, Printed plexi, metal, 12.25 x 11.5 x 11.5
Three dimensional qualities do not obliterate the painterly aspects of some of Feinstein’s prints. Her expertise in handling color gives this print from last year’s Panton Nemus solo exhibition at 02 Gallery in Austin the aura of thick paint.
Orna Feinstein, Ring Series #328, 2010, Monoprint, 24” x 20”