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Printmaker likes hands-on work

Megan Gifford has big, feline eyes, always swaying back and forth, trying to catch as much of the world as they can. She's almost like a Felix cat clock. It is that vast, elusive world which informs and inspires her printmaking art, so she can't be blamed for trying to take in as much as she can.

"I feel like printmaking is a hands-on, intensive art form. I think that really fits my personality. That's why it's fun for me," said Gifford. "It's very process-oriented; very much about thinking ahead and planning. Physicists and chemists are often very into printmaking. As a process, it works both sides of the brain."

Focusing on environmental impact and symmetry, much of Gifford's multi-faceted work involves her nature photographs being transformed into multi-dimensional colors and streams, adding an ethereal quality to the things which she has experienced first hand.

Fresh off a show in Southern Oregon University's Hannon Library, Gifford explains the intricacies and diverse methods of some of the works she has created, detailing the various processes, from spit-bite, soft ground techniques to the more complex multi-faceted copper baked imaging which spreads rust colors across the calligraphic black forests she strives to capture with both her camera and then her imagination.

Right now, Gifford labors at expanding her abilities at capturing the organic connections between man, the aesthetic and the natural landscapes.

"I try to get interesting twists on landscapes," said Gifford. "I want people to think about the environment and where our world is heading."

The politics of art remain prevalent in Gifford's mind, a mind brimming with the notion that aesthetic reactions can rock emotions and emotions can facilitate change.

"I want people to think when they look at my art," said Gifford of her growing body of work. "I don't want to just produce something that people put over their fireplaces."

Part of this means Gifford hopes to utilize in her goals of environmental advocacy also influenced her decision to fashion her median in Southern Oregon. The Wyoming native planted roots in Ashland because of the progressive print-making lab found on campus. SOU's printmaking lab is one of only three found in the national university system which utilize non-toxic, water-based production tools.

"This is the new-wave of print-making, and it's right here on this campus," said Gifford. "I wish that something like that would be more advertised." Ironically, as SOU faces budget cuts, the print-making discipline may be among the programs to get the ax.

Fighting to save her art, Gifford has helped initiate a "save print" campaign designed at promoting and educating on the SOU print-making program.

"I invited the dean, provost and university president to come visit the lab and showed them various things," said Gifford, hoping her efforts will make a difference.

"It really baffles me, when the goal of higher education is integration, problem-solving and critical thinking. Print-making is one of the few disciplines that truly incorporates all of these."

Still, Gifford, close to graduating, feels she has gained much of what she hoped for while attending the university and planning towards Grad school.

"There are many process to (still) learn," said Gifford. "I hope to get as many processes and methods in my head as I can."

Gifford hopes one day to, in addition to continuing her own art, teach others the inspiration she feels that she has gleaned. She beams, tapping her well-manicured fingers as she speaks of Tracy Templeton, an instructor who proved the source of much of her inspiration.

"She's really informed me in a positive way," said Gifford. "I can only hope to (one day) be as good of an instructor as she is."

Hoping to school in the East Coast, Gifford looks forward to experiencing a dichotomy of culture and life.

"The more culture you take in and the more people you meet, the more you have to work with," she said.

Presently, Gifford sees herself in an evolutionary pattern; her message and her means expanding exponentially with each new work.

"It's come a long way, just from last year to now. People are understanding a lot more of what I want them to," said Gifford. "And my process is coming a lot closer to what I envision in my mind."