Terry Svat is a local artist in the District whose unique, experimental printmaking is gaining traction in the art world. Her work was recently shown in the exhibit “My 20 20 Vision”, whose pieces drew from all stages of life experiences and in a way allowed her to reinvent her past. Svat pulled from her her wide array of travel memories that included the Soviet Union, Panama, and Argentina, recombining mental and material scraps to create an entirely new work of art. Svat’s intense passion for the arts and her expert division and fusion of colors and patterns convey the message of life’s ever-changing state.
What first got you interested in art? How has your work evolved over time?
I lived near the Cleveland Museum of Art and went to Saturday art classes from a very early age. While studying fine art in college, I took a course in printmaking and fell in love with the medium. Although I painted for a few years, printmaking has always been my fallback.
What draws you to printmaking as an art form? How have you added your own twists to this medium?
If we judge what has been preserved through the ages, we can see that the first artists made images in an effort to communicate with the forces that had power over their lives. Perhaps their imagery was a talisman or a prayer of sorts to ease their journey through life, helping them deal with both their joys and life struggles. Over the past 30-some years, my art has been influenced by the various ways in which people and societies not only leave their mark on their civilizations but also provide a legacy of images, symbols and monuments that speaks to other societies and other times.
Because I had the opportunity to live and travel abroad, I was able to study some of the symbols and images of various places in the world. I explored huacas from the pre-Columbian period, symbols and images of Stonehenge and Machu Picchu, the significance of the Berlin Wall and its demise, Apartheid and our own Vietnam Wall.
Throughout November, your work was displayed in an exhibit titled “My 20 20 Vision– Experimental Works.” What was your inspiration for these pieces?
My “20 20 Vision” exhibition is the revisiting of my past images and presenting them in a different light.
I combine fragments of my past prints, which include houses, archetypes, generations and symbols from which I create intricate, compact mixed-media tableaus of the present and what might be the future.
The story behind these tableaus is as follows. In 2008, I was an instructor at The George Washington University in the art therapy department. The department moved from main campus to a new area in Old Town Alexandria and asked its faculty and students to take an 8×8 canvas and create a piece to be hung on the halls of the new space. I couldn’t see how printmaking and canvas worked together until a small fragment of a print fell on the canvas. I began adding more fragments of old prints to the canvas, thereby completing the piece. I hated to give the piece up to the university because I liked it and wanted to develop its theme. That was the beginning of my tableau series. I now have completed 26 of them.
Your work features many faceless figures. Can you say more about why you choose this human representation and the impact that has on your art?
Images of the human figure appeared in cave drawings, reliquaries and the like as an expression of life and its rituals. They are timeless and used as a universal, not a specific, identity. I have kept that feeling in my images, although their shapes have changed as my theme developed.
How has your work altered your outlook on life, or vice versa?
My works are more of an inquiry into the efforts of mark makers in other societies while trying to encourage an interaction with current life forces. Working as an art therapist has opened my mind to understanding more fully these connections. I want my work to convey a sense of connectivity, a flow of past to the present and back again.
Are you currently working on any projects? What ideas do you have that you would like to explore in your art?
While working on this exhibit, I was introduced to the works of Lothar Osterberg, who was giving a lecture and workshop at the George Mason University print department.
He talked about revisiting your past works and seeing them in a different way. I began doing that, as I said for this exhibit, and now will begin to play with the images of houses and their symbolic meaning in our lives.
Following this exhibit, is your work currently/going to be on display anywhere in D.C.? Where can people access your art?
The exhibit has ended, but my work is still with the gallery (Washington Printmakers Gallery 1641 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.) and can be seen in part, or by appointment. My work is also shown at at www.washingtonprintmakers.com and https://about.me/terrysvat.
Art Piece: Pisac Rivisited I
This piece relates to a time when I was visiting Peru and passed through Pisac on my way to Machu Picchu. The guide showed us an ancient stone cross that had been buried halfway into the earth. She explained that it represented life above ground as well as life below, heaven and the underworld, life and rebirth. It really resonated with me and, at this time, I feel I needed to create it anew.