"It was 15 years since I made art," confessed da Costa, who has a doctorate in art history. In her study of ancient art, she has traveled to Greece, Turkey and Egypt, and even participated in an archaeological dig in Carthage, Tunisia.
The art form that she and Hollon decided to study is a process that traditionally involved an artist, wood-carver, printer and publisher. "It was a very collaborative process," da Costa said.
In Japan, the engravers trained for years, carving calligraphy before they were allowed to cut figures in the wood, da Costa explained. Only the most experienced engraver could carve a face, she said.
"I like working the wood," she said. "It's very physical and very creative. It's fulfilling."
For the color, da Costa uses gouache, an opaque watercolor, mixed with rice paste, that she applies with special brushes.
The printing itself is a labor-intensive process that may take up to eight hours. The professors used one to four carved blocks for each print, and up to six or seven colors. For some of her images of women and children, da Costa did the traditional hand coloring.
For inspiration, da Costa, of Downingtown, turned to vintage photos, Greek sculpture, and even a 1896 Alphonse Mucha tobacco poster.
"I like to have fun with other kinds of imagery, and play with different colors," said da Costa, who was born in Honolulu and taught in California before moving to Chester County.
For her print Demi Monde Cafe, da Costa assembles a group of women painted and sculpted by great artists including Botticelli, Picasso and Rossetti. The women sipping wine is reminiscent of a party scene that might have occurred in a Japanese teahouse where geisha relax after a party with clients and patrons, she said.
"It's about sensuality and having fun," she said of her art. "There's too much ugliness in the world."
The two artists got a $2,000 grant from the university to pursue their interest. The professors have already shared their work with students and hope to incorporate it into their curriculum.
Nancy Rumfield, interim chair for the West Chester University art department, who has watched da Costa at work, said, "I can really see a progression in the imagery, technique and color."
The theme of da Costa's images is women in art, Rumfield said, and she has drawn on mythology and her extensive background in art history. "Her experience with art history and that wealth of imagery is now surfacing in what she's creating. . . . There's a real simplicity about it. It's a simplicity that has strength."
To learn the basics, da Costa and Hollon took a two-day workshop in Maryland with a Japanese printmaker.
"We cut the block, learned how to prepare the paper, how to mix and apply" the color, said Hollon, who teaches etching and Western printmaking with oil-based inks applied with rollers.
Hollon said she was interested in learning how to make prints with water-based ink and "adapting their use of the material to my own visual vocabulary."
Over the summer, the women worked at Hollon's studio in Elkton, Md. "Getting everything to come together took quite a bit of practice," said Hollon, who explained how various paper and wood responded differently to the paint.
Hollon, who did abstract work for years, produced some still-life and landscape prints for this show.
Because most people think of black images with woodcuts, "I really tried as a personal challenge to work with unpredictable color combinations," Hollon said.
One of Hollon's prints for the show is a footbridge in New Mexico that she created in earth tones. She did the same image in blue and black. "You can get different moods" from the same print, she said.
"Once you get going, you start thinking about other possibilities."
Da Costa agreed.
"I like the creative, accidental aspects, . . . not really knowing exactly how it will turn out."
Send Arts news to suburban staff writer Mary Anne Janco, The Inquirer, 800 River Road, Conshohocken, Pa. 19428; e-mail it to PAArts@phillynews.com or fax it to 610-313-8243. Contact Mary Anne Janco at 610-313-8217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ginger da Costa
Philosophy: "I enjoy creating compositions that are positive, funny and life-affirming, whether real or imagined. . . . I like the psychological impact,
the feeling people can get from looking at a piece of art."
Influential Artists: "Van Gogh - in the depth of his depression, he still continued to work. He was so prolific. Artists who are so intense really inspire me: Edvard Munch, a Norwegian artist who did woodblock prints; Kitagawa Utamaro, who did woodblock prints of beautiful women, courtesans and geisha."
Most Proud Of: "Despite depression, I've actually managed to complete a Ph.D., have a wonderful teaching job here, and have made fabulous friends. I'm proud of how far I've come. I've not only survived but thrived."
Goal: "I'd like to publish a couple of books that combine art and art history." With her interest in multiculturalism and portraits, one possibility is a book on angels of every ethnicity.
If You Go:
"Beyond Ukiyo-e: Creative Woodblock Prints" runs through Dec. 20 at the Chester County Art Association, 100 N. Bradford Ave., West Chester. The opening reception is from 1 to 4 p.m. today. Hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m Monday through Saturday. Open this Sunday only. For more information, call 610-696-5600 or go to www.chescoart.org.
Christmas Pageant Pantomime set in Middle Ages with costumes, music. The School at Church Farm, Chapel of the Atonement. Route 30, Exton; 610-363-7500. 8 p.m. Fri; 3:30 p.m. Sat & 12/14.
Holiday Events West Chester Recreation Dept sponsors. 610-436-9010. Westtown Holiday festival: music, magic show, entertainment. Oakbourne Mansion, Oakborne Park, S Concord Rd, Westtown Twp. $6. Noon-3 p.m. Sun. Gingerbread House-Making; all ages. Oakbourne Mansion, Oakborne Park, S Concord Rd, Westtown Twp. $8. 11:30 a.m. Sun. Registration required. Community Christmas Caroling. Brandywine Hall Care Center, W Miner St, West Chester. Free. 7 p.m. Mon. Breakfast with Santa; all ages. Chester Co Historical Society, 225 N High St, West Chester. $10. 8:30 & 10 a.m. Sat.
Holiday House Tour Visit 8 houses and church in Chester Co. Sponsored by Owen J. Roberts Friends of the Arts. 610-326-6357. $10 advance; $12 at door. Meet 9 a.m. Owen J Roberts Middle School, Pottstown for tickets & maps; houses open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat.
Horse-Drawn Wagon Rides Ride past Christmas scenes & light displays; refreshments, cookies. Potter's Nursery, 359 Paoli Pk, Malvern; 610-459-2944. $8; $5 ages 2-8. 6-9 p.m. Tues-Thus, 5-9 p.m. Fris-Suns to 12/23.
West Chester Railroad Market St Station, West Chester; 610-430-2233. Santa Express: train rides with Santa. $12; $8 ages 2-12. 11 a.m., 1 & 3 p.m. Sats-Suns to 12/21.
Boughs & Bows Holiday House Tour Visit 10 decorated homes in Chester Co; benefits Downingtown Library. 610-269-2741. $12. Noon-4 p.m. Sun.
Spaghetti Dinner Meal, Chinese raffle, entertainment, music. Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church, 100 Media Line Rd, Newtown Square; 610-356-2564. $7; $4 under age 12. 4-7 p.m. Sun.
Craft Shows, Sales & Bazaars
Free admission unless noted.
Holiday Craft Show Gallery at Cedar Hollow, 2447 Yellow Springs Rd, Malvern; 610-640-2787. 11-6 p.m. daily to 12/31.
Call for Artisans Crafters & artists wanted for several area shows. Sponsored by Gallery at Cedar Hollow, 2447 Yellow Springs Rd, Malvern; 610-640-2787. Various times, days, locations.
Coatesville Area Senior Center 610-383-6900. Rainbow Dinner Theatre for Green Holly & Gray Potatoes show. $65. 12/15.
West Chester Recreation 401 E Gay St, West Chester; 610-436-9010. New York City; self-guided. $45; $35 seniors. Wed. Walt Disney on Ice, "Monsters, Inc." $30. 12/26.
*NEW* Brandywine River Museum Rtes 1 & 100, Chadds Ford; 610-388-2700. Annual "critter" sale: ornaments mades from all-natural materials. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Sun. Brandywine Christmas: O-gauge model railroad, Victorian dollhouse, holiday trees. Through 1/11. Donald Pywell, gold jewelry inspired by Andrew Wyeth's art; plus Wyeth's paintings that inspired jewelry. Closes 1/11. Andrew Wyeth: 20 paintings & drawings of Siri Erickson & her family. Opens . Closes 1/11. $6; $3 students, seniors; free ages under 6. 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily.
*NEW* Chadds Ford Rtes 1 & 100 S, Chadds Ford; 610-459-5510. Christmas group show, miniature mixed media. Closes 12/31.
*NEW* Chester County Art Association 100 N Bradford Ave, West Chester; 610-696-5600. John Baker, vessels; Gus Sermas, pastels; Belle Hollon, Ginger da Costa, Japanese woodblock prints. Opening reception 1-4 p.m. Sun. Close 12/20.
Chester Springs Studio 1671 Art School Rd, Chester Springs; 610-827-7277. MC Richards, paintings & pottery. Closes 12/12.
Gallery at Cedar Hollow 2447 Yellow Springs Rd, Malvern; 610-640-2787. Christmas & Hanukkah craft show. Closes 12/30.
Garrubbo Bazan 16 W Market St, West Chester; 610-696-1266. Group gift show, paintings & sculpture. Closes 1/5.
Holland Art House 113 W Market St, West Chester; 610-701-9330. www.hollandarthouse.com. Group show, mixed media. Closes 1/8.
Salon des Amis 2321 Yellow Springs Rd, Malvern; 610-647-6010. Alice Hyvonen, paintings. Closes 1/1.
*NEW* Sunset Hill Fine Arts 23 N High St, West Chester; 610-692-0374. Group miniature show, mixed media. Closes 12/24.
Tyme 17 W Eagle Rd, Havertown; 610-853-1215. www.tymegallery.com. Wallingford Community Art Center pottery show. Closes 12/27. J Kadir Cannon, assemblages; Alice Dustin, paintings. Closes Tue. Joseph Finisdore, sculptures. Permanent. Joseph Finisdore, sculptures. Permanent.
University of Delaware Old College, Main St & N College Ave, Newark; 302-831-8242. Inuit art show: drawings, sculptures, prints, tapestries, artifacts. Closes 12/14.
West Chester University McKinney, Mitchell Hall, Church & Sharpless Sts, West Chester; 610-436-2755. Faculty show, mixed media. Closes 12/12.
Wharton Esherick Museum Horseshoe Trail & Diamond Rock Hill Rd (off Yellow Springs Rd), Malvern; 610-644-5822. Group show, mirrors with woodworking frames. Closes 12/31. Call for tours.
"Holiday Magic" Tap, jazz, ballet; music by The Octorara High School Chorale. Kennett High School, S Union (Rte 82) & South Sts, Kennett Square; 610-444-3530. $12; $5 seniors. 2 & 6 p.m. Sat.
Brandywine Ballet The Nutcracker. West Chester University, Asplundh Concert Hall, University Ave & High St, West Chester; 610-696-2711. www.brandywineballet.com. $15-$35. 10 a.m. Fri & 12/17, 2 p.m. Sat & 12/20-12/21, 6 p.m. 12/14.
*FREE* Advent Choral Evensong With West Chester University Brass Quintet, Phillip Shade, organ; work by Ralph Vaughan Williams, holiday music. St Andrew's Episcopal Church, 7 St Andrew's Ln, Glenmoore; 610-458-5277. 4 p.m. Sun.
AIDS Awareness Concert With Rosco P Goldchain, StarSkream, Liberty, Tox Burner, the Hollow Tips, Loose Cannons, theater praise dance by Nnika Veal, NBA Dancers, more. West Chester Community Center, 501 E Miner St, West Chester. 267-307-5899. $12. 3 p.m. 12/20.
Evelyn Swensson Directs excerpts from her musical The Homecoming. Church of the Loving Shepherd, 1066 S New St, West Chester; 610-692-5662. $20; $5 students. 7:30 p.m. Fri, 4 p.m. Sat.
Professional & Community Theater
Arthur's Stone Merlin's Fire The Making of A King. Family adventure. People's Light & Theatre Company, 39 Conestoga Rd, Malvern; 610-644-3500. www.peopleslight.org. $25-$40; $75 family of 4 selected dates only. Tues-Suns (no shows Tue-Wed & 12/25). Closes 12/28.
The Fantasticks Musical. People's Light & Theatre Co, 39 Conestoga Rd, Malvern; 610-644-3500. $25-$40. Tues-Suns. Closes 12/14.
*NEW* Miracle on 34th Street Drama. Barley Sheaf Players, 810 N Whitford Rd, Lionville; 610-363-7075. $10; $9 seniors, students. Fris-Suns. Closes 12/14.
High School Theater
*NEW* It's A Wonderful Life Drama; Stage West Productions present. Downingtown West High School, 445 Manor Ave, Downingtown; 610-269-4400. $5; free ages under 13. 12/19-12/20.
Auditions & Rehearsals
Valley Forge Chorus of Sweet Adelines Main Line Martial Arts Center, Old Lancaster Rd, Berwyn; 610-284-7150. www.valleyforgechorus.com. Rehearsals. 7:30 p.m. Tues.
West Chester Band Pierce Middle School, West Chester; East Bradford Twp Bldg., West Chester. Call for location. 610-793-4654. Needed: instrumentalists for holiday concerts. 7-9 p.m Weds.
Longwood Gardens Rte 1, Kennett Square; 610-388-1000. Holiday Celebration: poinsettias, lights, fountain displays, daily organ & choral concerts (call for schedule), decorated trees & wreaths. Closes 1/4. 1050 acres of outdoor gardens, glass-enclosed conservatories. Unless noted, events free with reg admission. $15; $6 ages 16-20, $2 ages 6-15, free ages under 6. Outdoor gardens 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. DuPont House & Conservatories: Open 10 a.m., close same time as gardens.
Tyler Arboretum 515 Painter Rd (4 miles W of Media), Middletown Twp; 610-566-9134. www.tylerarboretum.org. Wildflower walks. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Weds & 1-3 p.m. Suns. Bird walks. . 8:15-10:15 a.m. Weds. History Ramble; hike & learn Tyler's history with guide. Free. 1-5 p.m. 12/28. 125 acres of special plant collections, gardens, historic trees & a maze; 450 acres of marked hiking trails. $5; $3 ages 3-15, free under 3. 9 a.m.-dusk daily.
For Kids & Teens
Barnes & Noble
150 W Swedesford Rd, Devon; 610-695-6600. Storytimes. 11 a.m. Tues & Sats. Magic Tree Horse Club. 7p.m. 2d Fri of month.
Barnes & Noble 301 N Main St, Exton; 610-524-0103. Storytimes; all ages. 11 a.m. Tues & Thus.
West Chester Recreation Dept 610-436-9010. Make Gingerbread House; all ages. Oakbourn Mansion. $8. 11:30 a.m. Sun. Registration required.