In contrast to the majority of contemporary printmakers who employ traditional printmaking methods such as etching and lithography to create multiples of an image, each print I make is one of a kind-a “unique” print, or monotype. Monotypes are by nature innovative. They are paintings made on metal plates and run through the press, just once.
My “Illumination” series of monotypes explore the effects of color and its illumination. Inspired by observations of the manner in which light affects color with its passing movement and changes, I am fascinated by the power of color to evoke emotion and to encourage contemplation, allowing the viewer to become the subject of the work.
Printmaking has evolved from my process driven work as a painter. For 16 years I have approached each print as a singular work of art, exploring ever expanding sizes, colors, materials and processes. Many of my prints have been acquired by museums.
Curators and critics have described my prints as having the authority of paintings, placing my work within the context of the work of Josef Albers, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Donald Judd, and James Turrell, and defining my position within the context of modern and contemporary art.
I am driven by the freedom to question, “What constitutes a print?”
Currently I am creating sculptures from prints, pushing the boundaries of printmaking from two dimensions into three dimensions and challenging the role that context plays in creating an aesthetic experience.
My “Slab Sculptures” series creates a platform for dialogue where the focus shifts to the physical presence of the work in space, rather than on the wall. These works confront the viewer with the intensity of one color as it exists in space and, like architecture, as it is affected by light and shadow. The sculptures also challenge the material expression of paper.
Betty Merken is an American painter and printmaker. Her work can be found in several galleries and numerous private and public collections in the United States, Asia, and Europe, and in the permanent collections of major museums, including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (the de Young Museum and the California Palace of the Legion of Honor), the UCLA Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon. Merken has been honored with fellowships from the BAU Institute in Otranto, Italy and New York and the Civita/Northwest Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in Italy. She is the co-author, with Stefan Merken, of Wall Art, Megamurals and Supergraphics (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1987).