Introducing Maggie Block
I studied at SUNY Stony Brook, then a new state university in NY focusing on mathematics, physics and engineering—and with no major in art. But there was an engineering professor, Edward Countey, who also taught drawing. He’d worked for a few years at Atelier 17 with Stanley William Hayter and was keen to teach etching. One floor below the wind tunnel prized by the engineering department was a large unventi-
lated room with a huge etching press. Arrayed against one wall was everything one could need for zinc intaglio: nitric acid, stockings full of powdered resin, a large hotplate for aquatint, hard and soft grounds, solvents, paper baths and a sink. Countey was a painter, sculptor and printmaker. But to him, art, math and science were of equal importance, he saw each as a training in use of the human mind. I was hooked:
the studio became my refuge.
Nature is important in my life and I’ve always loved to draw what I see and find—animals, living and dead, insects, trees, shells, plants and flowers in various states of decay. And I’ve made woodcuts with scrap lumber I find on the street. I love the work of Käthe Kollwitz and the German Expressionists, drawn to their political awareness conveyed with strong line and powerful composition. All of this has pointed me toward etching. I like the compulsiveness and all the technical aspects of it, the specific and particular timing and chemistry, the precision and carefulness of the process—it’s all satisfying and fascinating. And then there is the wonderful ultimate discovery that no matter how carefully and precisely one works, the element of chance and surprise may slip your efforts from your very hands, forcing you to look at everything anew and work from there. For me, this is a delicious mix of precision, carefulness, satisfaction, frustration and surprise.
My life took me in directions away from etching but I continued to draw and make woodcuts, and later I started painting. I worked as a graphic artist and was lucky to be involved in making many posters for community groups and progressive political organizations. After a few weekend workshops at MGC, about 3 or 4 years ago I signed up for Vijay Kumar’s etching class. It felt like home. There are so many techniques new to me since I made etchings in college and Vijay is a font of information, sharing the formal technical aspects and “tricks” he has gathered over a lifetime of printmaking. He is so encouraging: there are never mistakes that cannot be used to move a plate forward, perhaps in new and unexpected directions. I find in MGC a printmaker’s oasis—a collegial atmosphere where I can learn from others and share what I know.