Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Featured Artist: Liz Shepherd


First of all, would you please introduce yourself to our readers that might not be familiar with you and your work?

Liz in the studio at work on “Ladder” January 2010.
Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd

My name is Liz Shepherd. I was born in New York City and lived there until I was a teen. I still feel very much like a New Yorker (except that I am a Red Sox fan). My home and studio are now in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was what they call a “mature student” and received my MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 2006.

When and how did you get interested in art making?

Liz in the studio at work August 2009. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd

They tell me that I loved nursery school and I think that I just never gave up on “art projects”. I was in my first show when I was in something like 4th or 5th grade: a citywide art exhibit for elementary school students. Being a city kid, I never “went out to play in the backyard”, I made stuff in my room with little bits of fabric, ribbons, sequins, whatever I could get my hands on.

What do you do for fun besides making art?

Samode Palace, Rajasthan, India, December 2007.
Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd

Well, quite honestly, this is a tough question for me to answer. It seems like all the things that I do for fun are to feed my work: travel, going to the movies, reading. For better or worse, it is pretty much all I do. The rest of the stuff that I do is just in-between so that I can get back to making art. I enjoy friends and family, entertaining, etc. but almost all the time that I am “relaxing” I am impatiently waiting to get back to my studio.

What type of job(s) have you had in the past?

I was a producer in several multi-media design companies in New York and Boston for about 10 years. Before that I worked at the Children’s Television Workshop as the in-house graphics arts manager. During college I worked as a short order cook in a diner; I was very keen on being as independent from my family as much as possible. The oddest job was during a college break when I was the photographer at a department store taking pictures of kids on Santa’s lap.

Currently, what type of job(s) you do besides making art? Do you teach, write, and/or curate shows? If so, please give us some details.

Untitled (Hands #1), Intaglio, 2002. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd

From 2002 until 2006 I worked as a teaching assistant and then in 2007 as a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the printshop at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I spent those years learning how to make photo etchings. I have been teaching a class at SMFA called Photo and Digital Applications in Printmaking for the past few years as well as an Introduction to Printmaking class as a summer intensive class also at SMFA. I also teach printmaking in my studio and a hands-on seminar that is an introduction to printmaking especially for collectors and curators.

When did you, and what motivated you to establish Shepherd Print Studio? Where's the Studio located, what equipment and fittings you have set up in SPS? Could you tell our readers about the workshops, classes and studio rental being offered at SPS?

Teaching a seminar in the studio. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd

Well, if you want to make intaglio prints, you nearly always need a very special press. I bought a press in 2006 when I graduated from school and I now rent out my studio/printshop to artists by the month. I have just about everything needed to make all kinds of prints: relief, polymer plate lithography, etchings (including photo etchings) and silkscreen prints (and photo silkscreens). I run very small classes but mostly I do a lot of tutoring because most people know what they want to learn and want to learn it as quickly as possible at their own pace.

Shepherd Print Studio. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd

Shepherd Print Studio is located at 88 Garden Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., 7 days a week. For more info please call 617.842.4010 or visit website.

Please tell us a bit about your work in general. What media do you work in?

Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

Printmaking feels like breathing to me. It isn’t always easy but when I am exploring a new idea the struggle time is manageable. When I was working on my most recent edition of prints, the Immigrants, I knew almost immediately what I wanted to do and making that work was really fun and interesting.

Group of House, Cast Resin and Paper, 2009. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

Blue Hands, Cast Resin, 2009. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

I find making sculpture extremely demanding. It is slow, expensive, difficult and frustrating and I am never at all sure of what I am doing. Even when a piece is “done”, I am always wondering: “what is this? Is this anything?”

Could you tell us about the sculptures you assembled from pieces of furniture and daily objects? What are the thoughts and inspirations behind the creation of these mixed media sculptures?

Untitled (blue), mixed media/ found objects, Installation View MFA Boston Courtyard Gallery, 2007. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

Cutting a chest of drawers in two, revealing the “innards” was a way for me to discuss my panic about my son’s illness without being overly literal. I was thinking about the failure of language to describe suffering. There is a vast gulf between the experience of trauma and being able to talk about it in a way that feels meaningful.

Red Chairs, Digital Print, 2007. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

My new work was inspired at first by “Red Chairs” a piece that I did when I was thinking about the victims of 9/11 and the horror of falling from buildings. From a formal point of view, I am inspired by figures looking down from a Tiepolo (for example) ceiling.

What is the most interesting comment about your sculptures you have heard from a viewer?

I Don’t Know the Details, mixed media/ found objects Installation View, Tufts University Gallery, 2006. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

A few years ago someone said that my work was “somewhat sedate”. That really annoyed me, mostly because I knew right away that is was true. It’s not surprising that what I took as a negative comment has really inspired and challenged me to work more freely. I am constantly fighting against my impulse to overly refine and resolve. The need to “fix” comes from my background in graphic design; it is very contaminating.

Tell us about your intaglio prints. Could you discuss a bit your process?

Cups and Saucers, 2006, Intaglio, 15 x 20". Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

Working on “Salt”, Intaglio, 2005 at the press in the studio.
Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

Salt, 2007, Intaglio, 7" x 10" (plate size).
Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

My intaglio prints are mostly made by applying a photo sensitive film emulsion to copper plates, exposing the plate to UV light, etching the plate in ferric chloride acid and printing the plate on an etching press.

Waiting #1, Intaglio, 2009. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

Just about all of my printmaking (I also make block prints and screen prints) starts with collages that I do using Photoshop and then re-interpreting the digital images as fine art prints. For the “Immigrant” prints I started with a self-portrait that I made into a silhouette. The images that I collaged into the shapes are tiny portions of old engineers engravings.

Are you planning any exhibitions of your work in the near future? If yes, when and where, and what can the viewers expect to see in this exhibit?

I joined the Boston Sculptors Gallery so that I would challenge myself to make a new body of sculpture every two years. So, I have been getting ready for my upcoming show at the Boston Sculptors Gallery. The exhibition title is They Still Cast Shadows.

Cast rubber objects in process in the studio. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

For this show I am working with materials and methods that are completely new to me: casting resin and rubber into rubber molds. I feel like I have taken some chances in this work for this show and I hope to be happy with it when it is installed the first week of February.

Checking a rubber mold. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

The show will include a large site-specific installation of hundreds of translucent resin chairs hanging from nearly invisible filament. There are also a number of small, dark, uncanny resin sculptures and a series of etchings that merge original photography, computer generated imagery and traditional printmaking techniques.

The exhibition dates are February 10 to March 15, 2010, with an artist reception on February 12 and First Friday on March 5. Boston Sculptors Gallery is located at 486 Harrison Avenue in Boston's South End.

Staying Ahead, Silkscreen and Pastel, 2008. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

This Fall I was in the 20th National Exhibition at the Los Angeles Printmaking Biennial and a very nice small group show at the Bow Street Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

Working at the press in the studio. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

I try to keep current by tearing myself out of the studio and going to as many shows as possible. Most of my friends are artists, I am in a fabulous critic group and in addition to my membership at the Boston Sculptors, I am a member of the Boston Printmakers, so, there is a fair amount of networking going on.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Screening the walls for a site-specific installation, solo show at the Essex Art Center. September 2009. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

I just need to make the work and do my best to make sure that people see it. I try to keep my focus on my work and not to make myself too crazy about the rest of it – the business. I am naturally ambitious (the New Yorker in me?) and so “getting myself out there” sort of comes naturally.

What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

Cups and Saucers(Red and Green), 2008, Lino cut, 12.5" x 15.5".
Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

It helped me to think about not being too hard on myself while I was learning new skills. It is difficult for some of my students to accept making “bad” work until they become more proficient. I tell them what my teachers told me: to not be your own critic because it gets in the way of making the work. Too many of them are focusing on how they plan to frame the work as they are making it, and it is not productive, in fact, it kills creativity. I also advise my students to get to know what is happening in contemporary art and learn how to talk about their own work.

Tell us about the awards and recognitions you received in the past years.

Untitled, Mixed Media and lamp, 2 pieces, each is 16" x 24" x 30", 2005.
Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

I won the Boit Award in 2004 and 2005 at SMFA and was nominated for a Joan Mitchell Graduate Student Award. In 2006 I won the Praga Industries Materials Award at the Boston Printmakers North American Biennial. I was also honored when the Museum of Fine Arts acquired two of my prints in 2007.

Would you provide links to articles and reviews about your work?

Dressers, 15" x 20", Intaglio, 2006. Image courtesy of Liz Shepherd.

Are you available for commissioned works? Representing gallery if any?

“Ladder” is a site-specific piece and I can clearly imagine producing it for a public space as a commissioned work. I am represented by Boston Sculptors Gallery.

Would you like to share your contact info with our readers? Do you have website(s) for interested readers to learn more about your work?

My website is and I am on Facebook. My email address is

Liz Shepherd's Top Ten Artists.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your work?

I’d like to thank you for everything you are doing to support the Boston art community and for your interest in my work.