Carol Summers: The Woodcut Reinvented

Carol Summers: The Woodcut Reinvented

Carol Summers significantly expanded the traditional woodcut medium. His process even became known as the "Carol Summers technique". 

His unique technique involved placing the paper on top of the inked block, then transferring the ink by applying pressure with a baren and feeling for the edge of the carved block. Summers worked on the verso (back) side of the sheet and frequently printed colors on both sides of the sheet. 

For areas involving close registration he often inked the blocks separately and then assembled the blocks to print them together. This allowed Summers to provide sections of close control amidst larger fields of color. He used this technique most often with his rainbows.

Perhaps the greatest departure from traditional woodcut printing was his practice of spraying the printed surface with solvent. This effectively turned the inks into dyes, encouraging the pigment to bleed into the surface and create a watercolor appearance in the porous paper.

Summers’ process was spontaneous, imaginative, and intuitive. He viewed himself as a vessel for some unknown energy that wished to express itself through his art, crediting many of his creative decisions to this mysterious force rather than taking credit himself. The element of human exploration and his own experience in creating the print endures over time and is part of its universal appeal. We naturally recognize that this work was touched by the mind, emotion, and experience of a human spirit.

Summers’ work is art as experience; his forms vaguely represent the physical world, but are abstracted enough to not interfere with our experience of what we feel while looking at the piece. He has created the idea of our world and an encounter of it, but not necessarily a depiction of our world itself.

Summers’ legacy is not only a unique technique, but a unique person, and a unique experience spanning space and time, shared between the late artist and the current viewer.

Davidson Galleries Staff
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