USM Art Department

Maine Artists Anna Hepler and Andrea Sulzer Work with USM Art Students in Shared Artist Residency

February 26, 2014

GORHAM, Maine – Acclaimed Maine-based artists Anna Hepler and Andrea Sulzer are working with University of Southern Maine (USM) art students to create several large-scale woodblock banners as part of a shared artist residency.

The USM resident artists began working with 15 USM art students in early February and will continue the project until early March, with plans to unveil the banners at Pickwick Press during Portland’s First Friday Art Walk on March 7.

The students involved with the project will join Hepler and Sulzer to discuss the shared project experience in a Collaborative Project Presentation at 12 p.m., Tuesday, March 18 in Burnham Lounge, Robie Andrews Hall, on the USM Gorham campus. The presentation is free and open to the public.

When the project is complete there will be eight banners, each 4 feet wide by 6 feet tall, according to Hepler. 

“The process is a little different for everyone,” Hepler said recently. “We each have a 4-by-6 woodblock. Participants began by drawing a rough idea of their image directly onto the block and then began carving that design into the wood.”

The students are using mostly hand tools, such as gouges and box cutters. While the design and carving work is done on the USM Gorham campus, the resident artists and students will transport the woodblocks to Pickwick Press in Portland to print them onto banners. 

Working with Hepler and Sulzer has been “a real treat” according to William Freeman of Caribou, a USM senior art student who is working toward a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a concentration in printmaking.

“They are two of the most supportive, interested and interesting artists that I have had the opportunity to work with,” Freeman said. “I'm so grateful for this experience.”

Each year, USM invites one or more artists to the USM Gorham campus for an in-depth appointment of at least seven weeks during which the artists maintain open studio hours, engage with students in the creation of an artwork and greatly contribute to the fabric of the USM community. The opportunity for students to work alongside professional artists, who are not their professors, is a valuable opportunity, according to Carolyn Eyler, USM director of Exhibitions and Programming.

“There is a freeing quality that happens in this kind of ‘artists-relating-as-equals’ environment that is really different from a standard classroom,” Eyler said. 

Freeman, who was inspired by the earth's magnetic field and the orbit of the moon around earth to create his woodblock design, agreed that working with the artists-in-residence has been a unique and beneficial experience.

“A project of this nature feels different than a traditional classroom experience in how it's self-led and self-defined,” the art student said. “Anna and Andrea truly let us explore and create.

“We were given the chance to think about content and imagery for a month prior to the start of the project, so when we all came in with our intended content, we were able to work uninhibited,” Freeman continued. “All we had to do was show up and make art!”

Hepler and Sulzer will continue their artist residency on the USM Gorham campus until the end of April, during which time they will participate in classroom critiques, workshops, demonstrations and presentations.

Hepler, based in Eastport, is intrigued by the transitions of states and the convergence of opposites. Her recent work includes plastic inflatable structures that slowly deflate and serve as a basis for prints and drawings. Hepler’s work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and internationally. She frequently holds artist residency terms and has won numerous awards including the 2013 Maine Arts Commission Visual Arts Fellowship Award.

Sulzer, based in Brunswick, begins at the cellular level in her artwork. Small marks, nuclei of activity, multiply and migrate across her paper. Sometimes they arrange themselves into recognizable shapes such as a sea urchin or a Life Saver candy. Sulzer’s work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. as well as in the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and China. She also holds frequent artist residency appointments and has received several artist fellowships.