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Chipping the block, painting the silk: The color prints of Norma Bassett Hall at the Whatcom Museum
Norma Bassett Hall; Laguna Pueblo, 1930-34, Color block print on Japan paper, 9 ¾ x 14 ¼ in.; Lockhart Family Collection.


BELLINGHAM, WA.- This traveling exhibition presents a spectrum of the Oregon-born Hall's twenty-five year career as a printmaker. It is the first solo exhibition of Hall's artwork since her death in 1957, the first time that more than sixty of her prints have been gathered for exhibition, and likely the first time prints by her have been exhibited in the Pacific Northwest since a 1930 group retrospective at the Portland Art Association. Exhibited for the first time is a cherry woodblock and a portfolio of color block prints depicting the Oregon coast, jointly made by Hall and her husband, artist Arthur William Hall (American, 1889-1981), on the occasion of their marriage in 1922.

Hall, who was born in Halsey, Oregon, in 1888, was a watercolorist and oil painter, but her greatest love was color printmaking. After studying at the Portland Art Association School and graduating from the Art Institute of Chicago, she spent two years in Europe, where she learned the skills of block printmaking. She returned to live in Kansas, where she was a charter member of the Prairie Print Makers, and later New Mexico, where she became part of the pioneer movement in the development of serigraphy.

Hall was educated in early twentieth century America, when the Arts and Crafts movement was all the rage. This training is revealed not only in the carving of a cherry woodblock as a form of craft, but in the Japanese-influenced style and interpretation of her subjects. As was typical of an Arts and Crafts artist, Hall found inspiration in the diverse landscapes that she encountered in her extensive travels. She loved figural representation, particularly of foreign subjects, and she always explored the possibilities of color.

Guest curator Joby Patterson has been involved with fine prints for more than thirty years. After research in black and white intaglio prints for Bertha E. Jaques and the Chicago Society of Etchers (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002), Dr. Patterson's new interests turned to color. Her new book, Norma Bassett Hall: Catalogue Raisonné of Block Prints and Serigraphs (Portland, Oregon: Pomegranate Communications, 2014), traces the adventurous and creative life of Hall and her spouse.





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