Wortis uses monotype printing and collage processes to create images that dance across the canvas as they expand, contract and layer upon themselves. In the world of fine art print-making, a monotype is a print that can be created only once, creating a singular artwork that cannot be editioned.
She then arranges and rearranges materials on plexiglas plates, which are then covered in ink and drawn through the printing press against paper, often using unusual materials such as netting or string. Printing on delicate sheets of translucent paper with a variety of experimental materials and inks creates unique textures and linear surfaces. She then layers the papers and adds collage elements, allowing light, color, and line to combine into captivating compositions.
Joan spends months, even years, manipulating the many layers that go into her artworks. Surrounded by works-in-progress in her Vashon Island studio, she is able to flow between two states of mind as she creates each piece – one day reveling in intuitive artistic play and experimentation, and the next day pinning the art on the wall for careful consideration by her designer’s eye.
In her new exhibition, these delicate layered prints are mounted to plexiglass and displayed in ways that allow light to pass through, transforming color, illuminating lines, and creating glowing abstractions.
Densely linear works, such as Tango and Twirling, depict intertwining net-like forms filling the page with brief, strong brush-marks caught or tangled within.
"The driving force in my art making is play. Exploring images both found and created, color relationships, happenstance in design and then mixing them in different ways is the challenge and the pleasure."
"My tools of the trade are monotype and collage which I join in differing ways. I am intrigued by forms moving rhythmically in space, a theme I return to over and over. In this series I printed abstract textural designs on very thin, translucent papers, then layered two sheets together, one in front of the other. Each paper has an added collage element based on something calligraphic.
Through multiple layers, the works are an interplay of texture, color and form. Light shining through the papers gives a special life but also a fragility in handling them, so to be able to both see and touch I have adhered the layered papers to plexiglass."
~ Joan Wortis, 2020
The first thing that often strikes viewers about artwork by Joan Wortis is her impeccable sense of compositional balance, as well as her unusual and striking color choices. It is no surprise to learn that her extensive creative background includes time spent as a dancer and choreographer, as well as professional work as a designer and color forecaster for the textile industry.
“The paper responds to the ink in different ways depending on whether it is the first run through the press or the second or third. The placement of forms, netting, string and other ephemera, and the order in which they are placed also determines what is revealed or concealed underneath. These are the surprises that fuel my work.”~ Joan Wortis
Originally from New York City, Joan Wortis’s extensive career in the arts has spanned modern dance, hand-weaving, commercial textile design, printmaking and collage. Movement has always influenced Wortis’ work as a visual artist, giving her a deep sensitivity to the lyrical qualities of line and shape.
Following a 15 year career as a modern dancer and choreographer in the United States and Mexico, Joan moved to the world of visual art after studying weaving and textile design with renowned artists Adela Akers and Jack Lenor Larsen. Her weavings were shown at museums including the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City.
After a period of living and traveling around the globe, Wortis brought her textile sensibility to creative possibilities in monotype, collage and assemblage. This work has been exhibited at galleries and museums including the Shenzhen Art Institute in China, Nexus Gallery in NYC, Seattle Art Museum Gallery, Tacoma Art Museum, CoCA, Kirkland Arts Center, Gallery Atte in Tokyo, the Jacob Lawrence Gallery at the University of Washington, and ArtXchange Gallery.