HOUS — October 2008
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The Loop Art
Tim Moloney

Natural Woman

Israeli printmaker Orna Feinstein fi nds inspiration in her ‘Roots’—and her Houston home

Orna Feinstein isn’t exactly a people person. “Whenever I travel to a new place, I always check out the trees, shrubs, plants and fl owers— before I even look at the people,” says the Jerusalem-born, Houstonbased artist whose show of nature-inspired monoprints, Branched and Rooted, opened at the Museum of Printing History on Sept. 25 and runs through Jan. 17.

Th ough her lush abstract monoprints look like paintings, let’s get one thing clear: “I am an artist and a printmaker; these are not paintings,” says Feinstein, who’s repped locally by Anya Tish Gallery. In her method, ink and designs are layered over each other on sheets of Plexiglass, which are then used as “plates” for printing on paper. It’s a diffi cult, imprecise technique for a few reasons. For starters, the image is reversed when printed. And there’s a large degree of uncertainty as to what the fi nal eff ect will be when the print is made. Th e result is that each piece is unique.

“It’s all about manipulating the ink,” she explains. “Nothing is engraved.

Th at way, I can just wash the plates off and start all over again.” At any given time in her Meyerland studio, Feinstein works on between 50 and 100 pieces of all sizes. Some days it’s about adding the color red to them; on other days, it’s about incorporating a new design inspired by a plant she just saw.

Feinstein has always been obsessed with nature. As a child in Israel, she walked each day to school over a hill through an unspoiled natural area, and was always examining the plants, trees and fl owers. “I’m fascinated by going through the seasons and how the landscape changes,” she says.

She is especially attracted to tree trunks, whose rings reveal complex and repetitive patterns, whether they’re sliced vertically or horizontally.

Feinstein’s training as an artist began in elementary school with art classes, but her scientifi c side took hold by the time she reached high school, where she excelled in biology. She went on to study chemistry at Th e Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1976 to 1977. She and her inventor-engineer husband David put down roots in Houston in 1984 because they had friends living here. Later, she enrolled at Houston’s Glassell School at MFA and got a diploma in studio art and printmaking in 2002. In December, she will receive a BFA in sculpture from the University of Houston.

But for now, the monoprints remain her fi rst love. “I was drawing and painting for years, and with painting you have a plan,” she explains. “Th e end result pretty much looks like what you set out to do.” Making monoprints, though, is a journey whose destination is a mystery. “Every piece is a surprise,” she says. “It’s all chance and accident. Th at’s what keeps me going.”