The Gallery: wood engravings ¤ by FRANK C. ECKMAIR ¤ art director, Birch Brook Press
Frank C. Eckmair is a noted artist, printmaker and teacher. For many years he taught and served as Chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Buffalo State College, Buffalo, New York. His wood engravings and other works have appeared in dozens of books in the U.S. and abroad. His prints are housed in private collections and museums around the world, including the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian Museum, and the Pushkin Museum. Eckmair has been honored with numerous one-man shows. For the past ten years he has served as Art Director at Birch Brook Press. In this gallery of his work you will find examples of the marvelous versatility and exquisite craftsmanship he employs in these wood engravings, which appear in letterpress books printed and published by Birch Brook Press. At the bottom of this page you will find an engraving by the artist of a winter scene depicting the street where the artist resides in upstate New York. Signed prints of some of these original wood engravings are available through the artist or by contacting Birch Brook Press.
This detailed shore-front scene -- encompassing sky, sand, sea, vegetation, wooden house, bird and human life -- was created for the cover of a volume of poetry, Risking the Wind, by Warren Carrier. All of these widely varying images were blended harmoniously as the artist carved each texture exactingly out of one extremely hard block of wood.
With his sharp engraving tools, the artist has managed to cut a hard block of wood in a way that presents a distinct look of the stone used to build this classic fireplace in a remote cabin, complete with mounted moosehead. From Spirits of the Adirondacks, this engraving is one of 36 created specifically for this book. The artist has had an intimate relationship with the Adirondack Mountains all his life, camping, hiking, as well as painting and drawing in the heart of these "forever wild" forests.
A moody, evocative original engraving, with a man in the foreground, possibly Kafka's 'Josef,' following his own shadow into an endless doorway, with branches and overhanging insect, reaching out as if to prevent him from entering. Note too the chain at the doorway, all symbolizing the sense of entrapment, with no way to escape his fate. This art was created for the cover of Kafka Kaleidoscope, ananthology of essays, poems, fiction and a play, edited and with a foreword by Martin Wasserman.
Here we are confronted with a fine example of a life-long interest with this artist -- the decaying farm houses and barns of rural America, and in particular those located in upstate New York, where Eckmair taught and worked for many years. In this detailed engraving, notice the distinct cut of each blade of grass, the texture of the chair -- no doubt a relic leftover from the family which once lived in the house, and the skull which also may once have lived, and died, here. From the cover of Joel Chace's volume of poetry, The Melancholy of Yorick.
Just like the poems in this book, which are deeply introspec- tive, so is this rendering of the narrator penetratingly introspective. The subject of this wood engraving stares at the picture on the wall as if searching for answers without necessarily knowing the questions which need to be asked. The jagged black and white patterns on the floor add to the sense of uncertainty that comes upon one when faced with the inner terrors of modern life. Cover art for the volume, Repercussions, by Marcus Rome.
An outdoorsman for much of his life, Eckmair has backpacked, canoed, set up his tent in deep backwoods, and cooked many a meal over a campfire. That's why, as an artist, outdoor subjects have always fascinated him. In this scene, he has carved out of wood a scene that captures a flyfisherman just as he is landing into a big fish in fast waters. The art is the frontispiece from a book of essays and fiction set in Montana and Michigan, Fishing the Back Country, by Fred DeFauw.
Many of the artist's drawings and wood engravings have appeared in dozens of books at Birch Brook Press and elsewhere. His own love of books made this particular little book, The Life & Death of a Book, by William MacAdams, a special challenge and treat. The engraving shown here concluded this book and summed up the fate of the book in the story.
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