Local artist expresses passion for woodblock printing in new art show

aheymann@vagazette.com

Paula Goodman Koz has been making wood prints for decades. You can see her art in her upcoming exhibition “Paula Goodman Koz: The Art of Woodblock Printing” at Prince George Art and Framing.

Fred Miller, owner of the shop, said woodblock printing is an art form that has existed for thousands of years.

“The Chinese apparently invented the art form in the third century B.C.,” Miller said. “It’s a very ancient technique and Paula has done it in a modern sense very well.”

Koz has done magazine and newspaper illustrations, the Virginia Shakespeare Festival posters, calendars and T-shirts.

”Her work is very diverse in style and imagery,” Miller said.

Koz began printmaking when she went back to art school after working for an ad agency for five years. She said she was looking for a way to turn her pen and ink drawings into a reproducible format.

“It was that point, in my mid-20s, I realized I could make a reproducible print and sell them, but of course I didn’t want to be a fine artist, I wanted to be an illustrator,” she said.

Koz said her favorite kind of work to create are illustrations because they’re useful.

“If I were to be told you can have all the assignments you want but you can’t do any fine art, I would immediately — no questions,” Koz said.

“Because it’s what this medium was made for. To tell stories, to print books, to be useful to people, not to just to sit in somebody’s house.”

Koz’s early work was inspired by her home of New York City. She said she loved capturing the crumbling buildings and peeling paint. She said she was fascinated with the shabby architecture because it allowed her to see the layers of time.

She loved capturing that with her art because the way paint peels is also very similar to the process of colored woodblock printing.

“You paint one color, then you cut away from the wood, you print another color, then so on and so on until you have almost no wood left,” Koz said. “You have your original layer and then you just put more and more on top, so it just felt really right.”

In 1999, Koz said her family moved to Williamsburg and her work shifted subject matter from crumbling buildings to birds, quotes and Hebrew lettering.

“I thought I’m not in New York, there’s plenty to think of here,” Koz siad. “I think what I really like now is like quotations from somebody I respect or admire and a picture that goes with it.”

Koz’s interest in Hebrew comes from going to religious text study sessions at her synagogue. Traditionally in Judaism, people are not supposed to use an image with text, so often Koz said people will make an image out of the letters.

“There are old 18th-century prints of animals that are made out of letters or prayers for example,” Koz said.

“Again, I love to cut the letters out of the wood … it’s very calligraphic, not just the text but the image you produce.”

Want to see her art?

The show opens 5-7 p.m. Thursday at Prince George Art and Frames, 1303 Jamestown Road. Free. Learn more about Koz’s art and inquire about commissions at paulagoodmankoz.com/.

Heymann can be reached by phone at 757-298-5828 or on Twitter at @HeymannAmelia.

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