Final Print.jpg

Finished letterpress print

Tamara Wachsman, Scripps College '20

interviewed Malaya Tuyay 

To put it frankly, I am not an artist. I have an appreciation for art and admire the talent of artists, but I have always had the understanding that this was a discipline that I would not excel in. While this view has not changed over the last semester, I do now feel more comfortable with viewing myself as someone who is able to create a piece of artwork and be happy with the final product. The Book Arts & Social Justice course allowed me to explore the art form known as the artist’s book in conjunction with the various messages of social justice they can communicate. Previously a member of the Humanities Institute in the fall semester, I learned about immigration in the United States, specifically undocumented immigration. One of the concepts from the various assigned readings that stood out to me was that of labels and their varying connotations. Illegal alien, undocumented immigrant, unauthorized immigrant, and illegal immigrant all mean the same thing in the legal sense, but can differ greatly in terms of positive, neutral, and negative connotation. I attempted to explore this concept with my final project along with communicating the message that no matter what label people are referred to by, everyone is human and should be treated as such.

In both planning and creating my piece, I was inspired by the print portfolio Migration Now by the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative and Culture Strike. A collection of prints each by a different artist though all tied together by the shared theme of migration, the print portfolio helped me to better understand how to present a message in the form of a print. Interestingly, the prints that stood out the most to me were the ones that had both text and imagery, something that I incorporated into my own piece. I loved the vibrancy of the prints and how many of the artists utilized primary colors. Many of the prints were quite complex and each clearly showcased the skill of the artist. I tried to emulate the unity of text, imagery, and color in my more simple print design.

The printmaking process was one that was unfamiliar, yet exciting to embark on. While I was unsure in the beginning, I was surprised with how comfortable I became with the process and how quickly it went. In the end, planning out the print took at least twice as long as creating it. I began with a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to do, though while the message and overall concept that I ended up with were quite similar, my final product did differ from my (admittedly overambitious) initial design. Rather than have the print be entirely made-up of text (which would have taken ages to typeset and taken away from the main message), I instead used vinyl to create an abstract design to serve as a background that was overlaid with a smaller amount of text. I chose seven labels of immigration: alien, illegal alien, immigrant, undocumented immigrant, unauthorized immigrant, illegal immigrant, and undocumented worker. I used a light blue background and a darker blue for the labels so that they would not pop out, but rather be secondary to the central text. In the middle of the print, I used bright red ink to print the word “human.” I wanted the term to stand out the most as I felt it was the main message I wanted to communicate; a way to focus on the unifying rather than the othering labels. Altogether, the prints went through the press three times over the span of four days. It was incredibly satisfying to see my planning come to fruition at the end of the process.