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Mary Brodbeck

(b. 1958)

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Mary Brodbeck

In both the United States and Japan, Mary Brodbeck's color woodblock prints have been highly acclaimed for their superior craftsmanship and striking design. Her subject matter is taken from the world around her, and includes views of the American wilderness, as well as illustrations of flora and fauna encountered during her travels. Brodbeck's recent focus has been on views of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. The Great Lakes are among the most scenic and inspiring places in the North American landscape, with their massive rocky outcroppings and jutting cliffs providing a continual reminder of their ancient glacial origin. Brodbeck's prints range from intimate studies of objects, rocks, and trees found along the lakeshore, to monumental views of the bluffs and rocky islands that populate the shoreline.

Born in 1958, Mary Brodbeck grew up on a dairy farm near Woodland, Michigan along with four brothers and two sisters. Prior to focusing on fine art full-time in the 1990s, she worked as an industrial designer in the office furniture industry. In 1998, while a graduate student in printmaking at Western Michigan University, Brodbeck received a Bunka-Cho fellowship from the Japanese government. This fellowship enabled her to study the traditional methods of Japanese woodblock printmaking in Tokyo with the well-known printmaker Yoshisuke Funasaka.

Brodbeck currently resides in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband and beloved Welsh Corgi, and teaches printmaking and drawing at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. She also conducts printmaking workshops at various locations. During the autumn of 2007, she was invited to teach printmaking at the Japan Center for Michigan Universities in Hikone, Japan as a visiting scholar. Brodbeck's work has been exhibited in Canada, Japan, and throughout the United States.

In 2001, she began work on a print series entitled 36 Views of Lake Superior. Some of the landscape prints in this series depict particular places around Lake Superior, while other prints are more abstract and focus on characteristic elements of the lake, such as the curl of a wave or the crevice in a pile of weathered boulders. Like the noted Japanese printmaker Kiyoshi Saito, Brodbeck has the ability to simplify the details of a scene, leaving only the essential shapes and colors to create an abstract but powerful sense of place.

Though her subject matter stems from the North American landscape, Mary Brodbeck's prints can be seen as a modern offshoot of certain shin hanga landscape prints that portrayed an idyllic view of the pre-industrialized Japanese countryside. Brodbeck's work is also similar to the prints of Chiura Obata, many of which depict the rocky Yosemite Valley wilderness. Like Chiura Obata, Brodbeck chooses to illustrate the natural world as if it was free from human influence and uncorrupted by modern technology. As Brodbeck says of her frequent subject, Lake Superior, "Being among and drawing it's ancient shoreline -- rocks that have been in much the same position for the past 10,000 years -- has given me a sense of my own brief period on earth which I am reminded to cherish."

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