Stories From The Press


By Pam Paulson

Over the past decade, we have worked with four of the quilters from Gee’s Bend, making numerous prints from quilt tops sewn for this purpose. Two of the quilters, Louisiana Bendolph and Loretta Bennett, along with curator Matt Arnett, joined me in Asheville, North Carolina, last fall to take part in a panel discussion about the translation of quilt to print.

During the panel, Lou and Loretta described their first quilts, made at about age 12. Loretta liked making quilts, and Louisiana did not. Both felt that quilt-making was a practical skill, passed down mother to daughter, whose purpose was to keep the family warm during the winter. Neither saw the practice as art, but as part of the work they had to do alongside farming and cooking.

ashville group shot
From Left to Right: Juile Caro, Matt Arnett, Louisiana Bendolph, Loretta Bennett, Marilyn Zapf & Pam Paulson
Ashville WWC gallery with LOU Loretta and Julie
Warren Wilson College Gallery

Warren Wilson College and the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design (CCCD) in Asheville cohosted the exhibition Gee’s Bend: From Quilts to Prints. The show was cocurated by Julie Caro, professor of art history at Warren Wilson, and Marilyn Zapf, assistant director of CCCD. Caro has designed two courses around the quilters of Gee’s Bend: “African American Art: Gee’s
Bend” and “Art History Practicum: Gee’s Bend.” Part of the curriculum included planning the exhibition and teasing out all the layers of transformation; quilts to print, quilter to artist, craft to art, unknown to known.

ashville CCCD wall shot MLB work
Prints and working proofs by Mary Lee Bendolph at the Center for Craft Creativity and Design, Asheville, NC

Warren Wilson began as a school for farm children whose parents could not easily afford a college education. It was designed to allow students to earn their tuition by working: facilities crews, farming crews, and cooking crews took part in the daily labor of running the campus while attending classes. Today, the students get to pay tuition and work; there are landscape crews, plumbing and electrical crews, weaving crews, cattle and pig crews, etc. The idea is to take responsibility and build community by learning the work required in any enterprise.

I joined one of Julie’s classes off-site at the Black Mountain College Museum, which happens to be across the street from the CCCD. We watched a short film from the 1980s about Black Mountain College. It existed from 1933 to 1957 and was a precursor to alternative institutions like Warren Wilson, which is just a short drive over the hill. The film consisted of interviews with a few principle figures from the college explaining its truly democratic ideals. The teachers were the owners and the student had a voice on the decision-making council. John Dewey’s principles of education were the mainstay of the interdisciplinary philosophy. Building community was paramount. Everyone toiled to run the campus, build buildings, and design curriculum. Work equalized the residents.

Josef and Anni Albers fled Nazi Germany directly to Black Mountain College and joined the faculty. The Albers’s Bauhaus ideas helped Black Mountain become an incubator for the American avant garde. Experimental art, music, dance, writing poetry, and science attracted faculty and students. Faculty included Buckminster Fuller, Robert Creeley, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Willem de Kooning, Ruth Asawa, and Walter Gropius. Students included Robert Arneson, Allan Kaprow, Robert Rauschenberg, Dorothea Rockburne, Elaine de Kooning, and Cy Twombly.

ashville BMC bld with quilters
Former Black Mountain College campus

Later that day, Marilyn Zapf took us to see both campuses. Black Mountain is now a boy’s camp, but many buildings remain, modernist structures in sharp contrast to the nearby woodsy cabins.
The discipline of work, the autonomy of enterprise, and the responsibility of completion resonate in all of these places. In the Paulson Bott Press studio, Gee’s Bend, Warren Wilson, and Black Mountain, the practice of work for a common goal becomes a habit that frees us all to push further creatively.


The following day, we were interviewed on NPR by Frank Stasio. You can listen at

ashville public radio
Louisiana and Loretta at the Asheville public radio station

Hamsterbite, Softpound and Pianos. Making Prints with Caio Fonseca

By Renee Bott

The process of procuring a project with an artist can be more complex than you would think. Even the simple act of delivering an invitation can be quite an undertaking.  In 1996, when Pam and I formed our partnership, we drew up a list of artists we wished to publish and Caio Fonseca was high on that list.

Around this time Caio was on the cover of Modern Painters. A handsome young man seated in front of an impressive blue and white canvas, his gaze directed away from the viewer.  The article spoke of Fonseca’s love of classical music, his ability to play the piano and his multilingual background.   Evident in his lyrical abstractions is his Latin influence.

fonseca draws

Renee inks

At that time we had worked mainly with California artists.  As we set out to find a way to connect with Fonseca, we sought assistance from our colleague Betsy Senior.   Betsy had previously worked at Experimental Workshop in San Francisco but had gone on to open a gallery in New York on West Broadway in Soho. Betsy introduced us to a friend of hers who worked with Caio’s gallery at the time.  Three months later Pam and I were standing in Caio’s New York studio.

Pam and I were new to the experience of visiting an artist’s studio. I was completely overdressed. I had on a black skirt, nylons and heels, impossible for navigating the streets of New York.  Caio was dressed in comfortable clothes, wearing black jeans with a patina of paint splatter. His studio was romantic in the archetypal artist-studio way, as well as  rustic. In one corner was a grand piano.  As I tried not to squirm with discomfort and cursing my shoes, Caio put us at ease. Between his questions about printmaking Caio peppered the conversation with a hilarious pantomime of flipping open his leather wallet as if to answer a cell phone call. Cell phones were just hitting the market then, and Caio’s simulated cell phone ring and ensuing conversation had us laughing. After we managed to work out the dates for our first project, Caio offered us a cup of a “healthy green drink” and a Bach invention.  We moved to the grand piano, and Caio played several Bach fuges and a Mozart sonata.  I was transported to my youth, having grown up listening to my father play those same pieces on his grand piano.


When Caio came to work with us in 1999, Paulson Bott Press was located in its inaugural space in Emeryville. We rented him a small upright piano.  Since our studio was so small, we put the piano in our hallway.  Caio arrived carrying a leather bag, which he emptied it on the artist’s table. We marveled at his vast collection of implements, ranging from his handmade golden-mean calipers to everyday kitchen gadgets like pasta cutters and forks. Caio worked quickly, and it was all Pam and I could do to keep up with him. Printing an etching is slow, so while Caio waited to see his next proof, he would walk to the hallway and play a sonata or two.  He enjoyed discovering the printing process, and he was adept at creating his own vocabulary for our techniques. Terms like “spitbite” and “softground” he renamed “hamsterbite” and “softpound,” and although we laughed, we all knew exactly what he was talking about.

Pam and Caio


We have been collaborating with him to make etchings for almost twenty years and have produced a large body of work rooted in formalism. Caio continually draws inspiration from his musical background while his study of color and composition evolves. The most recent prints are forthright and vivid, signifying a strong direction within his oeuvre and within our work together.

Sharing the Passion. An Art Collection at Stanford.

By Rhea Fontaine

Recently we had the pleasure of visiting some of our collectors at their home on the Stanford University campus.

This couple has been collecting since the 1970s and has put together a stunning collection of prints, photos, and works on paper. With an early focus on Lichtenstein and Warhol, the collection now includes seminal works by Ansel Adams, Robert Bechtle, Damien Hirst, Ellsworth Kelly, Alex Katz, Sol LeWitt, Chris Ofili, Robert Rauschenberg, and Ed Ruscha, to name a few. We were thrilled to see etchings that we made with Isca Greenfield-Sanders and Christopher Brown on the walls of this midcentury home designed by Bates Elliot.


One of our friends is a recently retired engineering professor at Stanford University, where he taught for 50 years. His work in the field of neural engineering led much of the modem technology we all enjoy today. During the lovely lunch that our other friend prepared for us, he told the story of their introduction to visual art by fellow professor, Albert Elsen.

Elsen was a leading Rodin scholar at Stanford and also pivotal in the relationship that Stanford began in the 1970s with B. Gerald Cantor, the longtime supporter of the university’s art program, for whom the campus museum is named. It was Elsen who got our friends started on this collecting pursuit as he was able to communicate to the value of art. Elsen’s passion was contagious.


It was fascinating to hear the story of the beginning of their lifelong engagement with the arts.  It brought to mind the ongoing discussion about how the visual arts community connects with  enthusiasts in the science and technology fields.  Elsen wrote a book titled Purposes of Art: Introduction to the History and Appreciation of Art. The idea of purpose, as complicated and diverse as it may be, seemed so clear to me while standing in the middle of this collection.  To be surrounded by their visual expressions of thought and spirit gathered over a lifetime was truly invigorating.

Bectle-lo-res-for-blog                           group shot 3 good! lo res for blog

Horror Story: Eight Artists Engage with Mass Culture through Traumatic Imagery

By Rhea Fontaine

October 25, 2014 through January 10, 2015

The idea for this show emerged from an ongoing interest in the idea of spectacle—specifically, Andy Warhol’s engagement with the subject. His Death and Disaster series embraced the horrific image to construct a commentary of historical trauma. Roger Kamholz wrote, “Warhol took the senseless tragedies of his time, ones that expressed the fractures and failures of the American dream, and presented them as history painting, in the tradition of grand, wrenching statements like Théodore Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa (1819) and Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937).”

Thinking more about this show and spectacle, I realized that in Aristotle’s outline of tragedy, spectacle is just one part of his thinking. “Horror Story” is really a show about the tragedy of violence.

1968 (detail) (300 dpi ; web)

Christopher Brown’s prints Continental and Flag are depictions of stills from the Zapruder film. Edgar Arceneaux’s etching 1968 depicts the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Brown uses cheesecloth on softground plate to create the look of a TV screen, and Arceneaux depicts the Starship Enterprise in the far distance of his image, making both interpretations feel a bit detached from the actual events. Arceneaux’s Beyond the Great Eclipse series depicts ephemera from the Watts riots of 1965. All of these tragedies continue to haunt our perceptions of the 1960s.

Brown Continental  Brown Flag

Examining the horrors of the slave trade, David Huffman’s print Remuneration, 2007, along with Radcliffe Bailey’s Passage Goe, 2011, are chilling portraits of the architecture built in order to traffic human beings.

Passage Goree       Remuneration

Perhaps it is the horror film genre that can best engage traumatic history and confront viewers with it. Gary Simmons’ All Work and No Play references Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining. Simmons often uses metaphor and American popular culture to create works that address personal and collective experiences of race and class. In Kubrick’s film, there are several shots of Native American architecture, and the hotel is filled with Native American décor. The hotel, built on a sacred Indian burial ground, was haunted due to this desecration. Many theorize that the film is exploring the early American settlers’ exploitation and killing of the Native Americans.

All Work No Play

Again referencing film, Hernan Bas’ prints The Tenant and The Previous Tenant are images of the protagonist in Roman Polanski’s Film, Le Locataire, or The Tenant. The film explores the violence of the loss of privacy and the theme of victimization. Kota Ezawa’s prints Man and Woman and Stairs depict the scenes on the Odessa steps from the classic film Battleship Potemkin. The film terrifies the viewer with images of the brutal massacre of dozens of defenseless men, women, and children.

Bas and KJM

Lastly, Kerry James Marshall’s Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein address Mary Shelley’s classic novel and its racial resonances in the United States. Elizabeth Young, author of Black Frankenstein, states that “these Black Frankenstein stories effect four kinds of racial critique: they humanize the slave; they explain, if not justify, black violence; they condemn the slave owner; and they expose the instability of white power.” Again, Kerry James Marshall uses metaphor to explore the violence of slavery.

-Rhea Fontaine

Shaping a Master Printer

By Renee Bott

As part of the exhibit “Closely Considered – Diebenkorn in Berkeley” at the Richmond Art Center, Renee Bott was asked to speak this last Sunday on her experience working with Richard Diebenkorn. Here are some of her recollections.


By Renee Bott

When I look back at the years I worked with Richard Diebenkorn in the studio of Crown Point Press, I appreciate how that experience shaped my vision of what it meant to be an artist and, in turn, what it meant to be a printer. Over four years, Dick and I worked together on a total of four projects. We created a total of 20 editions.

I was 24 years old in 1985, and only a few months prior to meeting Dick, I received my master’s degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts (as it was then known) and was hired as a printer at Crown Point Press. At that time, Crown Point Press was located in downtown Oakland where Broadway intersected with San Pablo Avenue in a beautiful old retail space. Kathan Brown asked me to step in and help the three senior printers make and print the largest, most ambitious color etching that Diebenkorn ever created: Green, 1986.

Deibenkorn Combo
Printing Diebenkorn’s “Green”, 1986; Moving the press out of the Oakland studio to San Francisco.

As I worked in the back room steel-facing and preparing enormous plates, I was worried that I needed to be perfect. But Dick, with his certainty and quiet confidence, warmly welcomed me into his work ethos, a journey that accepted all, imperfections included.

Years later, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck and displaced Crown Point Press from its Folsom Street studio. It was an uncertain time, as Crown Point was forced to find temporary refuge for the gallery and studio. Kathan found a space several blocks south of the old location. It was an old garage that ran west to east for one city block between Folsom and Shipley.

The space was dank and dark, with florescent tubes that cast a hard blue light—a stark contrast to the beauty and grace of the Folsom Street studio. The earthquake had disturbed the homes of thousands, including the city rats. The rats often visited us, scurrying along the pipes that ran over our heads. After a while, our squeals of horror turned to nonchalance as we realized that they, too, were just looking for a new home.

It was in this environment that Kathan asked me to lead a project with Dick to make a set of small etchings for Arion Press’s book of poems by Yeats. Despite the chaos, I remember feeling so grateful to be given this chance to work with Dick again, even if we were in what felt like an underground cave. At one point near the end of that project, Dick, Kathan, and all of the printers gathered for lunch around a small coffee table. A rat ran by on a pipe above our heads, and a silence descended on the group. We all prayed that Dick would not notice our visitor. After an awkward moment, Dick smiled and asked “Was that one of our furry friends?” We all laughed hysterically. Dick was such a humble man. I believe he felt gratitude that we were all there with him, working together, even if it meant having to work around “furry friends.”

The six small plates created for the Yeats books were presented to Andrew Hoyem of Arion Press at a lunch prepared at the Dienbenkorns’ Healdsburg home. We drank crisp white wine and ate the lovely salmon that Phyllis, Dick’s wife, had prepared. After lunch, Dick asked me to show Andrew the prints. I untied a small portfolio containing the six images. Carefully turning the prints over like pages in a book, I gave everyone a moment to admire the work. No one said a word, but I felt that we were united by the prints.

Diebenkorn all coats
Richard Diebenkorn: Etchings for Poems by W. B. Yeats, 1990


As I prepared to leave, Dick put his hand on my shoulder and told me he liked the way I had shown the prints to Andrew. It felt like a ray of sunlight on my heart. His grace and humility stay with me to this day, informing my life’s work as a master printer.