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Self Portrait and the Golden Gate 1951 drypoint. edition of 10 -- Gene Kloss
Photographers have an advantage in that when they secure their negatives, they can reproduce the same image over and over again or they can modify it in the darkroom. Unlike a painting which is one of a kind, the photograph is reproducible thus making it accessible to more people at lower prices. In the office of the gallery where I volunteer my time as a sitter, there is a portfolio chock full of photos. The photographer has donated the proceeds from their sales to the gallery, but none had sold. It seemed that they were sitting there gathering dust until one fine morning, a friend of the gallery invited some guests and gave them a tour of the rooms. Before leaving, they purchased six prints. I had the honor of transacting the sale and being that so few transactions ever take place, I was temporarily at a loss in figuring out how to use the credit card machine. I always feel awkward when transacting a sale even when the item purchased is acquired through cash so infrequently these events occur. It was my first and only time that I saw photographs sold.
A month before, a photographer with giclée prints of Indian sadhus attending the kumbh mela had given up taking down his images for the last time as not one ever sold. We lost a piece of photojournalism qua art. But photographs whether from film or from digitized media are not the only reproducible item on display. From time-to-time other pieces are displayed and yet I do not recall the last time that a lithograph or a drypoint print was ever exhibited. People hanker for something original, something that no one else has ever produced or will ever repeat again that is, if anyone who visits this gallery decides to actually purchase something.
Spring in Taos Canyon -- Gene Kloss
But silkscreens, linocuts, woodcuts, aquatints, mezzotints, and monotypes are originals. To make the audience feel that they are genuine, the artist can willfully limit her work creating what is known as limited editions and if she comports herself with integrity will stop reproducing them upon reaching the appointed limit.
In this day and age where retail outlets are suffering competing with the giants of the Internet, people with a modicum of disposable income are not so disposed to buy art. A painting may attract a would be collector until he sees the price for it. And then he shutters, smiles to himself, and retreats to a corner or nonchalantly walks out of the gallery with a nod and a thank you to the gallerist or sitter. But when the price of a work is well below its worth, it sells. The painting screams out at the prospective customer. Not only that, its price likewise shouts. And thus a sale is made.
Adobe House and Snow Scene w/c on paper -- Gene Kloss
In Saratoga, there is an annual art fair. One of the participants pointed out to me that she sells while her colleagues hawking their latest paintings do not. She produces few works in a year slowly consuming her Sundays with painting. Instead she had them reproduced as photo-offset prints so that they can be sold rather inexpensively. Et voila, they sell.
A little further south is an art center with a long history of having at one time an art colony. The roads are punctuated with artist studios and galleries. It was a center for printing and artists such as George Bellows and Eugene Speicher of Georgia O'Keeffe fame – that is a story for another time – studied printing there. Today the Woodstock School of Art gives classes in printmaking including and especially the use of a lithographer's stone.
Conclave ca 1960 w/c -- Gene Kloss
Out West in the last century was a Californian who once she had been exposed to printmaking was hooked on it for the rest of her life. Gene Kloss discovered etching in her last semester at Berkley. The year was 1924. Some of her work sold in San Francisco and she saw that it therefore had some financial possibilities. She continued her studies at the California School of Fine Arts in that subsequent year but then went her own way traveling throughout the Southwest with her poet husband Phillips Kloss. They drove through southern California to Arizona and onwards towards Las Cruces, New Mexico before settling down in Taos. Along with camping equipment, she had a sixty pound press for etching on copper plates. Throughout her life, Kloss had made some 627 such copper etchings producing limited editions spanning five to 250 as her upper limit. While in Taos, her husband interviewed locals for a California paper while she etched. They spent their summers in Taos until 1945 when they decided to make that town their home base although they continued to travel and live also in other places such as Southern Colorado where she depicted its mining towns.
Taos, was known for its rich art history with the likes of Oscar Berninghaus Ernest L. Blumenschein, Eanger Irving Couse, Joseph Henry Sharp, Nicolai Fechin, and Mabel Dodge Luhan who brought many an artist to that region. And it had its famous visitors including John Sloan and John Marin. Just as the Klosses adopted Taos, the city had adopted them.
Red Willows and Taos Mountain -- Gene Kloss
Gene experimented with different printing techniques all throughout her artistic career combining diverse methods to create individual prints bringing together for instance etching with aquatint and then also with drypoint. Already in 1935 she was selected to represent New Mexico in a Paris exhibition and in the next year produced work for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). By 1950 she was elected as an associate to the National Academy of Design attaining that institution's highest rank of National Academician by 1972.
Aging eventually limited her travels and she focused on sketches and recollections of scenes as the basis for her new productions. Her last prints were created in 1985, but she continued to print copies from the plates that she had earlier made. Her last public appearance just shy of her ninety-first birthday was the opening of her retrospective held at the Harwood Museum. She passed two years later in 1996.
Domingo Basket Dance -- Gene Kloss
Her subject matter included the Southwestern landscape, indigenous culture, portraits of friends and colleagues. She never depended upon photography but relied exclusively on what she observed with the naked eye along with her memory of what she had seen. She is mostly known for her depiction of Native Americans as well as Penitentes. As a witness to the sea changes of the last century, one would suppose the revolutions both in politics and in technology would significantly impact on her subject matter. Perhaps because so much transpired in that compressed period of time, she chose to portray a sense of timelessness. People persist in building whole lives around memories out of fidelity to ancestors and the quest to instill in the young a feeling for tradition and continuity. The people of Taos and its surrounding area lived such lives raising cattle, farming and faithfully transmitting the values of their grandparents to each subsequent generation. On one hand they were obliged to adapt to changing times while on the other preserved their inner world that gave expression in the folk arts and rituals. Gene captured the latter giving her work a portrayal of a world that was beyond time. Principally a printmaker, Gene Kloss also left behind a collection of watercolors, oils and drawings that spanned her artistic career capturing this timeless sense.
Kereson Dancers etching -- Gene Kloss
American Art Review . Legendary Landscapes: Gene Kloss . pp. 102 – 103. America Arts Media, Inc. Leawood, kansas . April 2012.