ROCK SPRINGS – When master printmaker and University of Wyoming Professor of Printmaking Mark E. Ritchie sees a wild mustang, he views it as more than just a majestic animal in its natural habitat. He also sees its history, its symbolic significance, and its spirit of freedom. All of this finds its way into Ritchie’s drawn and hand-printed representations of those animals, examples of which will be on display at the Western Wyoming Community College Art Gallery beginning March 7 in the new exhibit “Receiving From The Other Hand.”
“To see a wild horse, a mustang, from the speeding car while traveling is and was a moment of capturing a symbol of the mythic West,” Ritchie says. “Behind the symbol is the history of invasion, exploitation and greed that is also part of the history and politics of the American West. The problems associated with the remnants of that history – the feral horse – are more complicated. This print focuses on the image that is taken, the souvenir, of power and freedom: the fleeting image from the moving car.”
“Receiving From The Other Hand” will feature Ritchie’s lithographic and collagraphic prints, which he says are “developed both in the field and continued in the studio. The power and immediacy of the drawn mark are extended in these prints through layered transfers, tusche washes, and constructed textural collagraph plates.”
Ritchie is an artist working between printmaking and drawing and with large-scale works that are exhibited in the spirit of Asian folding screens and small-scale works that reference Near Eastern miniature traditions. Recent work references animal imagery as a metaphor for relationships. Non-western manipulation of space and a variety of materials and methods are employed to create subtle layering of ink and pigment on paper.
Western Gallery Director and Professor of Art, Florence McEwin sees Ritchie’s work as a reflection of his international travels and studies.
“Every other year, Mark, with wife and metalsmith Leah Hardy, has sponsored, for UW art students, teaching travels to India, absorbing the culture and experiencing the art of the regions,” McEwin said. “As artists, all that we see becomes an influence, intentional or not.
“The sketch book is integral to Mark’s interpretation of the horse as symbol, and in these works the horse is reinterpreted from the sketchbook into printed forms while keeping the immediacy of the sketchbook page,” she continued. “Sometimes non-art enthusiasts might confuse the mechanized print of today with the hand-pulled print. The hand-pulled print began in Europe around 1495 and has taken many forms as the artist continues to expand the tradition. These hand-pulled prints work within the tradition while expressing the immediacy of the moment.“
After receiving his B.F.A. degree from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., Ritchie spent a year in Cardiff, Wales at South Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education, and in Aberdeen, Scotland at Peacock Printmakers. He was awarded the M.F.A. degree in Printmaking from Indiana University, Bloomington in 1990.
Ritchie worked as an Artist-in-Residence for the Georgia Arts Council in schools and briefly in a prison. After teaching at universities in Georgia and Texas, he accepted a position at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where he currently holds the rank of Professor in the Department of Art. Ritchie exhibits nationally and internationally but prefers the quiet, windy solitude of Wyoming as a place to live and work.