Art365: Printmaker Emily Gray Koehler

By Mark Peterson

A visit to Emily Gray Koehler’s sun-filled studio in the Thorp Building found her in the midst of a printmaking project for an upcoming exhibition in Red Wing, Minnesota.  The show would be the nineteenth annual Poet-Artist Collaboration, at Red Wing Arts Depot, a project that matches visual artists and poets in a kind of double-blind pairing; each artist gets a poem to work from, but the two artists never meet until the exhibition begins.

On Friday, March 13, Koehler was printing from a woodcut she had made, “The Field Yearns,” from a line in the assigned poem. She ran off an edition of sixteen (“I like even numbers”), peeling each print from the birch plywood woodcut after pressing, and placing it on a wall-hung drying rack. For this edition, she used black oil-based ink, which she likes for its luminosity and resistance to fading, and GFK Rives, an all-cotton acid-free paper.

Koehler is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota a decade ago. She and her husband live in St. Paul. Last year, she moved her studio from White Bear Lake to Northeast Minneapolis. She’s been making prints for over 20 years.

What none of us knew at the time was that this ART365 open studio afternoon would be one of the last chances, for a long time, for artists and audiences to get close up. The Red Wing Arts reception was adapted from an April 2nd in-person event to a Zoom exhibition on April 24. A chapbook of the poetry and images is available for sale at https://redwingarts.org/poet-artist-collaboration.

Koehler, who had maintained a vigorous online presence even before the COVID-19 shutdown, also participated in the St. Paul Virtual Art Crawl April 24-26.

And because her studio, like other artists’ studios, remains closed to the public and “nearly all of my in-person shows are either canceled or moving to virtual events due to COVID-19,” Koehler acknowledged that she will also be saving the direct costs of travelling to and participating in those shows. “Consequently, I would like to pass that savings on to my collectors as I attempt to come directly to you online.” Orders placed through https://emilygraykoehler.com/  are 20% off and free shipping in the shopping cart, no code required.

She is also taking advance orders for a new five-layer seven-color reduction block print tentatively titled, “Tempest.”