Inspirational artist visits Towson, exhibits works

By: Jessica Ricks, Staff Writer
Featured image by Brendan Felch

Printmaker and founder of Printmakers Open Forum Shelley Thorstensen shared her artistic process for creating prints, urging audience members to never give up their craft, at the opening of her exhibition at Towson University on Sept. 7. 

Throughout the presentation, Thorstensen explained the four different types of printmaking, showed some of her favorite art pieces and explained where she gets her inspiration, while making the audience laugh with her unique way of explaining things.

“You’ve got to keep yourself amused while you’re doing this type of thing,” she said.

Printmaking was something Thorstensen wanted to do from a young age. When she was 7 years old, her parents had an etching on display in their living room and it captivated her.

One day, her mother asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, and she said she wanted to create etchings. While many people grow out of their ambitions, from being an astronaut to being president, Thorstensen still has yet to lose her drive and her desire to create.

“I’m all set,” she said. “I want to keep working like this. I love doing what I’m doing.” 

Thorstensen specializes in all printmaking techniques, particularly hand-pulled, color multi-print media. She’s inspired by nature, the way light touches objects and her personal experiences.

Each of the pieces she showed had a deep meaning to her, whether they are inspired by the flowers and roots growing in her garden, or her personal experiences with religion and growing up. Each consists of many subtle layers, colors and details.

Bethany McGlyn, a senior art history major, was fascinated by the technique and artistry that went into Thorstensen’s work.

“It’s really awesome to see the parallels in her prints and what they mean,” she said. “I’m an art historian, so the logistics of it make no sense to me. It’s crazy how intricate it is and how many layers go into it.”

In order to make the most of her passion, Thorstensen founded the Printmakers Open Forum, a business that she built with her husband, Dale Baggerley. There, she practices printmaking, teaches workshops and does research. She calls the business a “home for wayward print girls and boys.”

There are always five to six projects at once in Thorstensen’s workshop. It’s a never-ending process for her and she emphasized how important it is to never stop, no matter what you think your work looks like.

“Don’t stop, even if you don’t make anything for a long time,” she said to the audience. “Keep making things. Even if it’s not perfect, you can’t stop.”

In addition to owning the Printmakers Open Forum, her work can be found on display in The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Kenosha Public Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, as well as numerous other spaces.

Thorstensen’s exhibition, on view in the Holtzman MFA Art Gallery until Oct. 7, is part of a four-part printmaking series called Printfest, which will feature a collection of four exhibitions of prints and printmaking in the 20th and 21st centuries.

A Print Forum panel discussion will take place on Sept. 28 at 6:30 p.m., featuring renowned printmaking experts as guest speakers.

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