Asheville Printmakers unite for inaugural Invitational Group Show

TAKE ME TO THE RIVER: Local print-based artist Martha Johnson’s “Drifting Along” is one of the featured pieces in the Asheville Printmakers' inaugural Invitational Group Show at Asheville Print Studio. Photo courtesy of the artist

Denise Markbreit has been busy.

In addition to her individual artistic pursuits, the owner of Asheville Print Studio has organized a pair of group shows for the Asheville Printmakers — the first taking place at Ananda Hair Studio, 22 Broadway, and the second at her own studio inside Riverview Station, 191 Lyman St., Suite 224.

“Bringing together interested members into local spaces, both commercial and art-related, has had its challenges,” says Markbreit. “But on the whole, the group embraced the prospect of showing our work in not one, but two spots in Asheville concurrently.”

Both exhibitions will run through late September, and the latter — the inaugural Invitational Group Show — includes an opening reception on Saturday, Aug. 14, 4-7 p.m. Following the event, the public is invited to view the exhibit on Mondays and Thursdays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., or by appointment. Based on the flurry on interest, members are optimistic about introducing more people to print-based creations through these shows and via the wealth of hands-on offerings from local studios.

Informal but unified

Markbreit describes Asheville Printmakers as “an independent alliance of artists who express themselves through the medium of the print.” Membership encompasses experienced and emerging artists, who she says define “the print” broadly to encompass a wide range of processes and content, using creative approaches both traditional and experimental.

“Members’ printing methods vary from relief printing, such as woodblock, linocut and wood engraving, to intaglio methods, such as drypoint, etching, collagraph and photogravure,” Markbreit says. “A common thread is a hands-on involvement in making prints.”

She adds that group members are self-identified, with the only requirements being an interest in printmaking, the motivation to create with artistic intent and payment of a $10 annual due. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Asheville Printmakers met on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, 281 Edgewood Road, but quickly adopted Zoom to keep the sessions consistent.

Whether meeting in person, which resumed in July, or online, activities include sharing recent work, critiques, exhibit planning and printmaking demonstrations. Most importantly, Markbreit notes, the “gatherings and discussions inspire and energize [the artists] to create on a regular basis.”


Black Mountain-based artist and Asheville Printmakers member Martha Johnson views the group as a means of “getting to know a part of the local art scene and some of its artists.” After more than 45 years of working, teaching and talking print, she prefers the term “print-based practice” to define the medium and considers it a limitless field.

“I enjoy the problem-solving, the mark-making, the pauses between the physical work and the actual printing, and the peculiar logic of making art through print media,” Johnson says.

Asked to identify some aspects about the craft that might surprise people, she points to its history (“Think cave art,” she explains), as well as the time involved and its indirectness. “Spend enough years in it, and you will think and write backwards with ease,” she says.

Johnson will be one of over 20 artists exhibiting at the Invitational Group Show, in which the Asheville Printmakers were asked to create or share pieces no larger than 12 inches by 12 inches. She sees the collection as an opportunity for the artists to get going again after a year-plus of being apart, as well as a great excuse to see one another in person and share ideas. For attendees, she hopes that the prints instill a sense of curiosity in a discipline to which she and her colleagues have dedicated themselves.

“This is a show with size constraints, so this work is a result of playing with woodblocks and metal etching plates from an ongoing series focused on environmental issues in these mountains,” Johnson says. “These are all water-themed, since I happened to be working on large works about the area where the Swannanoa River joins the French Broad.”

In addition to spotlighting the Asheville Printmakers’ creations, the Invitational Group Show also serves as a potential recruiting tool for aspiring artists looking to join their ranks. Though Johnson no longer teaches, Markbreit and other participating artists provide educational opportunities in their spaces.

Asheville Print Studio, which has been in operation for nearly four years, offers classes, workshops, one-to-one instruction and press rental, all within what Markbreit calls “a greener, safer working environment, using soy-based inks and no solvents for cleanup.” By passing along these long-standing approaches, she and her colleagues aim to grow Asheville Printmakers’ membership base and turn the Invitational Group Show into an annual event.

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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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