Episcopalian's work launches library exhibits

New Jersey artist finds monotypes a meditative medium
August 28, 2009

This summer, visitors to the public library in the historic town of Cranbury, New Jersey, could find more than books on its shelves. From the end of each of the stacks hung one of a series of framed monotypes created by a local artist, Kadri Kallikorm-Rhodes.

"Many people think of libraries as just a place to get books," said librarian Marilynn Mullen. "But they are much, much more. They can be community centers where people gather, where friends can meet and children can learn."

The Cranbury exhibit is the first in a series of shows by local artists and photographers. It's a way they can share their creativity with others in the community, Mullen said.

A lack of art galleries in the area makes it a challenge for artists to show their work, said Kallikorm-Rhodes, who with her husband, Edward, is a member of Trinity Episcopal Church in nearby Princeton, New Jersey.

A research librarian for Mathematica Policy Research, a nationally recognized organization that analyzes federal and state policy and programs, she enjoys painting at night during the quiet hours while other family members sleep, she said. "It's meditative, a way of getting away from your day's activities."

Monotyping is "a type of printmaking made by drawing or painting on a smooth, nonabsorbent surface," according to Wikipedia. Historically, the surface was a copper etching plate, but in contemporary work it can vary from zinc or glass to acrylic glass. The image is transferred onto a sheet of paper by pressing the two together.

Drawing with ink
"There's really an element of serendipity in it," Kallikorm-Rhodes said. "You never know what you'll get, and there are often a lot of rejects.

"I work with thin sheets of plastic or Plexiglass," she explained. "I cover the plate with a thin layer of printing ink, place it on the paper and draw on the back of the plate."

She described the process as "drawing with the ink" as the pressure of her pencil transfers ink from the plate to the paper. This method means that each of her prints is one-of-a-kind, even when she returns to the same motifs for inspiration.

A native of Estonia, Kallikorm-Rhodes began formal art instruction when she was 11. "I was trained in a strict, classical approach. It was the end of the Soviet era and we didn't have art materials readily available, so I was taught painting by using watercolors."

She studied with some of Estonia's leading painters. But eventually her life took a different course, and she graduated with a degree in medieval history from the University of Tartu. When Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, she became a career diplomat, working and studying in Brussels and Paris, where she earned a master's degree in international business law.

At the opening of her show at the library, Kallikorm-Rhodes presented a talk on ways to jump-start and nourish the creative process. It's a theme that she lives out daily, as she finds herself drawn back repeatedly to her own art, which includes a variety of techniques and media. "It's a need that demands to be satisfied," she said.

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