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Jonathon Quinnelly
Every Last Drop

mezzotint
3.5″ x 5″

@quinston_churchill
USA

Alex Rowe, Illustrator & Children's Book Artist

Alex Rowe
Teaching Assistant
Illustrator & Children’s Book Artist

Artist Statement
“I am an undergraduate student in the Printmaking program at the University of North Texas. I have experience with various intaglio processes using copper, but this is my first mezzotint. The process of rocking the plate was time consuming, but the rich black is well worth it. I have enjoyed the reductive approach to drawing and the subtle values that are possible with this technique.

Conceptually, this is new territory for me as an artist. As a white man in America, the topic of race is uncomfortable and even good intentions are often misguided and misunderstood, so I welcome any and all feedback on both form and content. This print is about racial oppression and cultural appropriation in the United States. It is supposed to resemble the kid’s game of “Indian Rug Burn” taken to an extreme point in which the arm is being violently wrung out. This is to symbolize the ongoing, systemic violence against people of color in the United States and also the way white Americans intentionally or ignorantly steal from minority cultures.

I am planning on working the plate until there is a more obvious skin tone difference between the hands and the arm, which will hopefully communicate the message more clearly. However, even with more work, I know that the image may be too vague to communicate the specific idea that inspired it.”

Video Transcript

“For this piece, in your artist statement you talk a lot about your concept behind it, and before we get to that, I want to address the technique because this is one of those pieces where it’s like, either technique or concept, one is doing a really great job and the other one could use a little bit of work. So I want to separate that like, you can succeed in some areas and need improvement in others.

I think it’s such a good choice to do a print for this. It has that dark gritty wonderful quality. The only thing that troubles me with technique is the kind of separation sometimes between the rich gritty anatomically accurate hands and then the bending of the skin in its exaggeration looks almost cartoonish, almost like it doesn’t look accurate in that way.

So I think that you’re in a crossroads here where you can choose either to get as real as possible and really get that gritty quality or if you want to play around with the anatomy and kind of embrace the strangeness of like, you know, like, that’s not how skin man bends. Like, what if you make it super rubbery now, and again like, not to be difficult but like, either one is a good option. I think right now you’re just in the middle ground and you have to choose the direction to go.

As far as the concepts like, you raise a really powerful and appropriate question for artists is how can you talk about a difficult issue if you are not like, in this case, in your artist statement you say like, you’re talking about race in America but you’re not a member of the race that you’re talking about, so how do you kind of find that realm.

And I heard a really great talk about this, actually a few days ago, and it was in regards to writing but the writer said, ‘The key is to just be genuine.’ So if you’re writing about a heavy topic, then people will be able to detect like, falsehood right away so no matter what your message is, as long as it’s a genuine one to you, then you’ll be fine.

If you look at it and say like, ‘Hey, this is me, myself and I am talking about my perspective of, in this case, race in America,’ rather than, ‘This is me and my perspective and I’m going to talk about what other people feel.’ Does that make sense? But yeah, I think that this is a terrific piece and honestly I would really love that this became a series. Yeah, it’s really nice work.”

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4 responses on "Jonathon Quinnelly"

  1. Hi Jonathon, at first glance I could already sense a dynamic concept and conversation in your piece. In my experience as a white male, I’ve found that whenever I talk about race, I can only accept that I am ignorant to the experience of others. However that doesn’t mean I can’t be an ally and support them and create a space for their expression, I just can’t talk in place for them.

    For me I can feel the physical pain the arm feels, because I think at one point we’ve all endured physical pain caused by someone else. Yet at the same time viewing them as symbols of race brings forth the conversation of systemic oppression and the effects of white privilege on people of color, in which I have not felt that pain. Overall I’m glad this is your concept because I think it’s very important to start the conversation no matter if it’s uncomfortable, simply because I fear the current situation in the U.S. may only get more polarized and silence won’t help anyone.

    As for your technique, I think continuing to lighten the white hands would be beneficial but overall I really enjoy the craftsmanship and how each hand fades into the deep black background. I don’t have too much experience in printmaking but I personally want to see how you can continue this conversation in addressing the systemic oppression of people of color in the U.S.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. This is a very powerful and engaging piece. Even before fully understanding the context, the overall dark tone and painful imagery indicate that the print is about oppression and violence of some kind, so I believe you did a good job in communicating your message. However, I do think that you can still work on the tonality to create a stronger distinction between the two races so that it becomes clearer that this is about racial oppression.

    Overall, I really enjoy the soft quality of the image and I think you did a great job in using subtlety to convey a very powerful message. I would be very interested in seeing this as a series. I’d like to see you play around with different hand poses and perhaps look into more games or activities with arms that can similarly symbolize violence. Thank you for sharing this with us!

  3. I think this is definitely a visually powerful piece. I agree with you that the skin tones of the hands need to be more defined to clearly communicate what you want to say, but from first glance I understood the power play present in your work.

    As for people understanding the specific concept (the Indian Rug Burn game) behind your piece, I think you’re fine. Have faith in the viewers, they’re smart! I’m sure your audience will make the connection. Even if someone doesn’t notice it, they can sense it.

  4. Wonderful work on this piece! I agree that mezzotint was certainly the right media for a project like this, the grittiness and lack of color really contribute to the piece as a whole. Once you do make stronger distinctions in skin tone, I think your message will be very clear.

    In some ways, I do loose the twisting in the arm that you are trying to convey. Having an older brother, I know just how painful these are, yet it almost reminds me of wrinkled skin rather than it being violently twisted. I think if you kept the creases closer to the hands itself, it could be a bit more clear!

    What you mentioned in your artist statement really reminded me, to a much lesser extent, of the controversy around Open Casket, a painting By Dana Schutz from this year’s Whitney Biennial. Without getting into too much detail as the piece is very raw, Schutz made headlines for the almost complete divide over her piece- some people thought she was bringing attention to a sensitive topic, while others wanted it removed from the exhibition or even destroyed. I think more than anything being well informed and as real as possible, like Alex said in the video is extremely important for this sort of subject. I do not think this is a problem in your piece, but it is very important to keep in mind!

    Overall great work!

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