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Around the Factory with Lori Crossley

August 7, 2011
By APRIL LINE - Sun-Gazette Correspondent , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

During the second heat wave this summer, there were a surprising number of artists at the PJ Factory, 1307 Park Ave., working and sweating.

Lori Crossley has space No. 25, where her present series, tentatively titled, "Pre Knowledge," is on display. The artwork is mixed-media - comprised of old prints Crossley made in graduate school and pastel - with additional prints cut up. She cuts out silhouettes that hint at the shape of chess pieces, but are stylized or distorted.

Crossley teaches art at Williamsport Area High School and she said, "It's a great district to be an art teacher. The students are great [and there's] wonderful support for the arts. It's a good gig."

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APRIL LINE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent

She said that there is a lot of support for the arts at the school and she intimates that teaching art is the only thing that is almost as good as spending all of her time doing art.

Having space at the PJ Factory is new to Crossley. But she's been displaying art and working with other artists in the Factory since she had an installation in the Governor's Art Awards show that was hosted by the Factory in 2008. The inspiration for her present series came from an old sketchbook that she found when preparing to move her studio to the Factory. She said she found a sketchbook with blind contours and other drawings of chess pieces that she did while she supervised a study hall.

The chess pieces appropriated Crossley's original plans to work in collage with silhouettes of stiletto heels. She said with a mischievous gleam in her eye, "I love shoes."

But ideas about good and evil and the way these concepts are visually represented, the stories people tell about them and chess pieces' physical beauty started colliding in her mind, and the first part of the series was born.

The works in the series to this point are primarily black and white, and she assembles them with hints of color. She started learning to play chess several weeks ago, and said, "What I tend to do is build up a visual vocabulary of images I'll use over and over again to tell a story."

She plans the next series about chess as dry-point prints that will incorporate new chess drawings and some of the same shapes from the first series.

A dry point is a print made with a brass plate. A pointed tool (it is dry because no ink is used at this stage) scrapes designs in the brass plate, which is where the ink collects and transfers to the paper onto which the plate is pressed. Crossley said that after she works on a dry point, her hand feels crippled and arthritic, but she sort of chuckles about it saying, "it hurts your hand a lot. I feel arthritic when I'm done," but she seems to feel the pain is worth it.

Crossley also takes photographs. She said, "I try to take a photograph a day, because a couple of years ago I realized that I was a pretty bad photographer. Being an artist, I get the composition piece, but I didn't know anything about aperture settings or light. But I feel like I'm a much better photographer now than I was 2 years ago."

At the Factory, she works in Paper +, Chad Andrews's print shop, too. Andrews also studied at Kutztown University, which is where Crossley earned her bachelor of fine arts degree and teaching certification. She and Andrews did not meet, however, until a few years later in Williamsport. She said humorously, "I believe he graduated the year I started - that makes me younger."

She earned a master of fine arts degree in printmaking at Tyler School of Art, which is part of Temple University in Philadelphia. A couple years later, she returned to Kutztown for teaching certification.

She said, "You are the only person responsible for your happiness," and her work and affect and general vibe of earthy sensibility reflect this notion. Crossley fits right into the puzzle of the Factory.



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