Steamboat artist Susan Oehme named one of Colorado’s top creatives
- Oehme Graphics, 2655 Copper Ridge Circle, Steamboat Springs
- In conjunction with Mo’Print 2018 – “Informed: Print as an Influence” at Space Gallery, 400 Santa Fe Drive, Denver, through April 7.
- Master Printmakers and Print Educators in Colorado at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue, Denver, through April 8.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Professional printmakers typically follow protocol.
Everything from cleaning the plates correctly to ensuring the edges are clean. These are rules that ensure imperfections or accidents don’t occur.
But for Steamboat Springs artist and master printermaker, Susan Oehme, her most recent endeavor, “Informed: Print as Influence,” on display at the Space Gallery in Denver, went against that protocol.
“Break the rules,” said Oehme, owner of Oehme Graphics who worked with three artists on the exhibition. “Anything goes — anything that you’ve wanted to do that you’ve been told to never do — it could be done.
“I love those happy accidents, those random, uncontrollable events that could change the visual dialogue of a piece — it opens up so much more freedom,” Oehme said.
It is Oehme’s reputation as an artist who pushes boundaries and her prowess as a printmaker that led to her being named one of Westword magazine’s 100 Colorado Creatives.
“Just out of the blue, I got this email,” said Oehme, who was teaching in California when she was notified. “I hadn’t ever heard of it. Then, when I looked into it later, I realized what a big deal it was. I’m extremely honored.
“I feel like the award should also go to the people I’ve worked with because such a huge part of me is that collaboration, and that’s what I love to do — bring out the best everyone can do in their artwork,” Oehme continued. “It’s very gratifying and such an honor to receive this.”
Through the regional printmaking community and in conjunction with Denver’s Biennial Month of Printmaking — also known as Mo’Print — Susan Froyd, Westword’s arts and culture editor, discovered Oehme’s work.
Writing for Westword since 1992, Froyd curated the series, now in its fourth iteration. Although she hasn’t met every artist in the state, she said she is familiar with their work and the details of their professional lives.
To be named one of 100 Colorado Creatives, Froyd considers an artist’s “accomplishments, quality of work, public service, kudos and sometimes, a local show or event to tie it in to.”
“It was her own artwork, of course, that stood out, but also her place in the community as a master printmaker who teaches and works with other artists realizing their own print work,” Froyd said.
Oehme moved to Steamboat Springs in 1996 from New York City and began working as director of Riverhouse Editions, a local print studio. In 2010, she opened her state-of-the-art printmaking studio, Oehme Graphics, located on the west end of town.
“Since I moved to Steamboat, I think its creative community has continued to grow, change and thrive creatively,” said Oehme. “Now, I think we are getting the recognition for it, and it’s going to go up exponentially. That’s my hope and my dream, and I think it really will happen too.”
In crafting this particular print series for the “Informed: Print as Influence” exhibition in Denver, Oehme was able to be an artist again rather than the teacher or coach she’s become, with six to 10 artists in residence at the studio or teaching various workshops across the country.
“I got back into the studio,” said Oehme, who also gives credit to her former studio assistant, Jessie Sykes, who helped push Oehme to do her own print project. “It was as if my head exploded with ideas that had been filed subconsciously for years. Every time I print now, it brings up something new.”
Oehme’s prints have a structural sensibility to them, resembling forms of geometric shapes brought to life with layers of color.
“For most people, the prints usually come after the major body of work, but for me, the prints came first then the paintings [two large ones in show] evolved from the prints,” Oehme said. “For me, it’s more about the texture, the line quality and the color and the overlapping of all of that — that’s what I’m drawn to and what I’m trying to evoke with the pieces and the prints.”
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