Nov 272010


Felicia van Bork is a Toronto artist now living in Davidson, North Carolina, with her husband, the poet-novelist Alan Michael Parker. DG met both Felicia and Alan when dg was the McGee Professor of Writing at Davidson College in the spring of 2005, a semester memorable for friendship, conviviality, the brilliance of the students, and for sitting in Zoran Kuzmanovich’s kitchen drinking flavoured vodka. It was always an amazing experience going to the Parker-van Bork house for the proliferation of art work which hung from the walls in every room. In those days, Felicia worked mostly in encaustic, whereas now she has veered off into print-making, especially monotypes as represented below. To dg, what is amazing about these prints is the tension between the apparent immensity of the space inside the frame and the actual dimensions of the works. Felicia somehow implies vast spaces and grandeur in the shapes she creates. Also places—silent marine depths. And life forms, and dramatic, swooping gestures. There is little representation here, but implication is all. She limns a world pregnant with immensity and motion. When dg wrote to her about the new work, Felicia responded:

It’s true. Encaustic is awesome, but things change. A couple of years ago, I was in Provincetown, in the MFA program at the Fine Arts Work Center. I was making nice paintings. Then I took a three-hour monotype workshop in the printmaking studio and – and – that was that. I bought the biggest piece of plexi that would fit on the huge American French Tool press and started making prints like “Deep Music in Deep Water.” In fused encaustic, it’s difficult to make graphic lines, hard edges and gradients, but in monotype printmaking, those pictorial elements are part of the basic tool set. And because prints are worked in reverse and with the unpredictable action of pressure on ink, my addiction to chance is still being fed. Unexpected things happen all the time, and I get surprises every time I peel the paper away from the plate. A single print may go through the press more than ten times, so there are lots of opportunities for the Divine to have a go along with me.

I do edge-to-edge printing, meaning I don’t leave a border of unprinted paper around my images. When the plate is inked and the ink has been manipulated, I have the freedom to place the paper on the ink as the image demands, without worrying about registering the image perfectly in relation to the edges of the plate. And because inked plexi is more or less transparent, I can see how the ink marks on the plate will be positioned on the image in progress.

—Felicia van Bork



by Felicia van Bork



Deep Music in Deep Water, 2008, monotype, 35.5″ x 106″, diptych



My Next Body, 2009, 9 monotypes, 66″ x 90″


Evolutionary Fields 1, 2009, monotype, 22″ x 30″



(left) Patterns in Nature 2, 2010, monotype, 22.5 x 30 in.  (right) Evolution’s Secret 3, 2010, monotype, 22.5 x 30 in.

  14 Responses to “Monotypes — Felicia van Bork”

  1. I do like these, Felicia, and can only repeat Doug’s illuminating comments.

  2. Felicia,
    These are beautiful. I can hear the whale’s song in Deep Music Deep Water. And Evolutionary Fields, with mitotic spindles as magnetic fields – brilliant.

    • Of course, everyone on NC knows what a mitotic spindle is. But one or two stray readers, not part of the inner circle, might need a little help.

      Mitotic spindles from Internet Encyclopedia of Science: “During the first stage of mitosis, prophase, the chromosomes condense and become visible as double strands (each strand being termed a chromatid) and the nuclear envelope breaks down. At the same time the mitotic spindle forms by the polymerisation of microtubules and the chromosomes are attached to spindle fibres at their kinetochores. In metaphase the chromosomes align in a central plane perpendicular to the long axis of the spindle. This is termed the metaphase plate. During anaphase the paired chromatids are apparently pulled to opposite poles of the spindle by means of the spindle fibre microtubules attached to the kinetochore, though the actual mechanism for this movement is still controversial. This separation of chromatids is completed during telophase, when they can be regarded as chromosomes proper.”

  3. As a former biology teacher, I applaud NC’s foray into the field of cell division. Next month: The Krebs Cycle?

  4. By the way, I love the monotypes. Very haunting, unsettling.

  5. Thanks for the compliments. I love the mitotic spindles paragraph, too.

    I’m a pleased that anyone (yay, Ms Quarmby!) recognized cell division as the source for the primitive symbols at the bottom of Evolutionary Fields 1.

    To me, mitosis is thrilling, meaningful, and almost unbearably beautiful. But that statement is a bit redundant I guess, since beauty is always thrilling and meaningful. It’s funny that beautiful might be confused with decorative.


    I can’t find the amazing time-lapse video that blew me a way many years ago. It showed the microtubules feeling and sorting each other with what looks like tenderness and intelligence.

    The following are still wonderful:

    mitosis in real time

    mitosis of a blood lily

    Many thanks to dg for sharing my monotypes with the literary intelligentsia.

  6. “To me, mitosis is thrilling, meaningful, and almost unbearably beautiful.” Wow. Holy smokes!

    You’ve made my day. This is a wonderful thing for a cell biologist to read from an artist. I’d like to cellebrate [sic] by sharing my favorite AR Ammons poem:


    Science outstrips
    other modes &
    reveal more of
    the crux of the matter
    than we can calmly

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