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ARRANGEMENTS: Abstract Relief Prints

April 5 – June 21, 2014

Artist Reception: Saturday, April 5, 2014

5:00 PM – 8:00 PM


This April PDNB Gallery will feature a solo exhibition by Don Schol of his recent linoleum cuts. Although PDNB specializes in showing photography and photo-based works, other media are highlighted as well.  This will be Don Schol’s second solo exhibition at PDNB Gallery.

Schol (b. 1941, Iowa) is known for his wood sculptures, often self-portraits. He studied art and philosophy at University of Dallas, receiving his Bachelor’s Degree. He received his MFA at the University of Texas and was soon drafted into the Army where he served as a Second Lieutenant and  “Combat Artist” in Vietnam.

About 40 years later in 2009, after a long career of teaching art at the University of North Texas, Schol created a series of woodblock prints that conveyed his personal experience with the demons of war. Vietnam Remembrances, the title of the series, approached the subject as universal to all war, but used specific imagery to the Vietnam conflict.

Because of his recent arthritis, woodcarving has become a difficult task. Woodcarving has always been his passion, as seen in his sculpture and wood block prints. Linoleum cuts became the next step, while also satisfying his appetite to carve. The new work featured in his upcoming show is abstract, quite different from the more figurative work he is known for.

Below is a short interview…

PDNB – Your woodblock series, Vietnam Remembrances, had so much impact, which led to the book, War Cuts*, to be published. Were you surprised at the response?

DON - Yes, I was surprised. I did not expect such a response because the Vietnam War was ancient history. I believe that the greatest response came from my fellow Vietnam veterans, many of whom said that what I did was long overdue. Of course, even younger people responded saying that I dealt with timeless issues, men at war. The book, War Cuts, is still receiving recognition by those who were never aware of the prints as a separate effort. My gratitude goes to Burt and Missy Finger who showed their generosity in allowing me to show those Nam prints at their gallery, PDNB; which was generously financed by collectors John and Ann Mullen, and ultimately lead to the publication of the book, War Cuts.

PDNB – After your tour of duty in Vietnam, you were sent to Hawaii to produce the artwork for the Combat Artist program. What was your medium of choice to express your experience?

DON - My medium of choice while in Hawaii was sculpture, in particular ceramic sculpture. I have always worked as a wood carver, but that process would have been too time consuming for our allotted time on the big island, so I chose to use clay which could be fired in a kiln and offer a permanent sculptural object. 

PDNB – What sparked the idea for these new works on paper series, ARRANGEMENTS

DON - Ever since I finished creating the Vietnam prints and publishing the book, War Cuts I have been asked to exhibit those prints at numerous venues and to accompany the showing with some kind of lecture. I have been consumed with war. I have read nearly every book written by veterans of the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War. I guess I wanted to compare my experience in Vietnam with their experiences in their wars. I finally reached a saturation point and needed to turn my artistic efforts in a totally different direction, an abstract direction. While working alone in my studio, I always listen to instrumental jazz music. Consequently, I started drawing shapes that were inspired by listening to jazz. I focused on non-recognizable shapes. One image lead to another and 33 prints later I have this new body of work. I must admit that I broke my own rule and started playing with tool shapes in an abstract arrangement. They are a part of this body of work as well.             

PDNB – How long have you been creating works on paper, as opposed to sculpture?

DON - I have always created works on paper throughout my entire career. Whenever I carved large wooden sculptures, I would create woodcuts as well. At the time, I did not think of the prints as important. I just did them for myself. Within the last five years I have developed rheumatoid arthritis in my hands. This condition has greatly limited my carving efforts and has even encroached on my woodcut efforts. Consequently, I started cutting linoleum blocks which require less pressure. Today even cutting the linoleum causes painful after effects in my hands.

PDNB – Your knowledge of papers you use for printing is quite impressive. You used HOSHO paper for your woodblock prints. For this recent series you have selected Mingeishi Awagami Kozo paper and Mulberry paper. How did you become so well versed on these various papers?

DON - I have become familiar with the various relief print papers from experience in using them to print on different surfaces (wood & linoleum) and to print with different kinds of inks. I am always looking for different kinds of paper.

PDNB - Your archive of works-on-paper will be donated to Texas Tech University. Tell us about that.

DON - Texas Tech University has established an Archive for Print Research in Lubbock, Texas. The Director, Peter Briggs, has invited specific printmakers to donate their work to the archive for current and future research by printmakers and print historians. Dr. Briggs made a trip to my studio two years ago to view my work and invite me to donate drawings and prints to the archive. It is his hope that the Archive will become a center for printmaking research. From what he reports, the response from printmakers has been overwhelming. It is my plan to systematically send bodies of print work to the archive within the next year.

PDNB – What is your next project?

DON - My next project is to spend some creative time with my camera, photographing familiar places and things and then to use the photographs as a starting point for more relief prints. The photograph is one thing and has a magic all its own. The print is yet another thing and has its own magic as well. I want to exhibit the two side by side to reveal how the eye and hand interpret the same image in different media.

When I started teaching at the University of North Texas 41 years ago, I started the photography program. For the first time in my life I used a camera heavily in Vietnam to document my surroundings and combat action. Of course I drew in my sketchbook as well, but I learned to use a camera as a combat tool under extreme circumstances. That experience gave me the confidence to teach photography as an art form. It seems particularly appropriate to embark upon this project because it brings me full circle in my career and back to photography from whence I started.

*Published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011

Don Schol, XII, 2014